Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Aggie Visits an Ethanol Plant
After being shut down and idle for more than five years, the ethanol plant in Pratt is back in business under the ownership of Pratt Energy, a partnership between The Scoular Company and Pratt Biofuel Investors (PBI). Pratt Energy is operating the plant and marketing the ethanol, while Scoular is buying the milo and corn to produce the ethanol and marketing the wet and dry distillers grains, a co-product of ethanol production.
Scoular purchased the 55-million gallon plant and adjoining 1.8-million bushel grain facility in 2011 from Gateway Plant LLC. The Gateway ethanol plant had originally opened in 2007, but an ice storm in December 2007 and other management difficulties caused the plant to go bankrupt and close.
In December 2012, Scoular sold a portion of its interest in Pratt Energy to Pratt Biofuels, which has related ownership to Calgren Renewable Fuels. Renovations were completed by late summer 2013, and the plant began grinding grain and producing ethanol in early September 2013.
Lyle Schlyer, president of both Pratt Energy and Calgren Renewable Fuels, gave us our tour at the Pratt plant. Schlyer said the Pratt plant is patterned after a nearly identical plant in Pixley, Calif. Calgren successfully renovated the Pixley plant in 2009 and continues to operate it today.
Area farmers and cooperatives are hauling milo and corn to the plant to be converted to ethanol. When they arrive, the grain is tested for quality using probes.
Right now, the ethanol blend ratio is about 60 percent corn and 40 percent milo, but the plant tries to use the grain that is most economically feasible, said TJ Mandl, Scoular’s local manager who oversees the company’s Pratt business.
Scoular also markets wet and dry distillers grains, a co-product produced during the processing. Scoular supplies the distillers grains to small and large cattle feeders, as well as feed mills. Each day, about 20 loads of ethanol and 45 loads of distillers grains go out of the plant.
We got to see inside the ethanol plant, but Aggie and I can't reveal any trade secrets for the process. (We didn't understand them anyway!)
** Some of the information for this blog post came from a newsletter produced by The Scoular Company. It was tough to hear during the tour, so the information found in the online newsletter helped supplement the information Aggie and I learned while on the tour.