North Carolina ethanol plant hits snag

The 108 million gallon per year ethanol plant being constructed by Agri-Ethanol Products in Aurora, N.C., has hit another snag, but the delay is only a temporary setback in production in the Southeast.

Originally scheduled to begin buying corn in the spring of 2007, the first corn procurement is now set for early 2008, according to Terry Ruse, vice-president of Agri-Ethanol Products LLC. The company plans to begin groundbreaking for the huge plant in Aurora, N.C., this month.

Ruse explains that procuring steel contract and compliance with local, state and national guidelines has delayed ground-breaking for the facility. Despite the delays, Agri-Ethanol Products is now planning two additional sites in North Carolina and four more in South Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas. Within the next 18 months, the company hopes to begin construction on up to 10 ethanol facilities in the Southeast.

“All these facilities will be cookie cutter replicas of the plant in Aurora, with 108 million gallons of ethanol production capability and comparable production capabilities for distiller’s grain and CO2,” Ruse notes.

Each of these facilities will use approximately 40 million bushels of corn per year and Ruse says his company is committed to buying as local grain for production as is available. All of the corn for the Aurora plant will either be trucked in from local farmers or come in via rail from the Midwest.

If construction of the ethanol plants, planned in North Carolina, stay on schedule, the state would have three ethanol plants operational by summer 2009. This would create a market for 120 million bushels of corn per year for area farmers. In comparison, North Carolina currently produces 80 million to 90 million bushels of corn per year.

For farmers interested in supplying corn for ethanol production, a key is to be able to deliver off-season and to deliver it at 15 percent moisture or less. On-farm storage may become a critical issue for farmers planning to grow corn for any of the ethanol plants being planned in the Southeast.

A 108 million gallon ethanol facility, like the one to be constructed in Aurora, N.C., will use a little over 100,000 bushels of corn per day.

Each of the Agri-Ethanol plants will have 2.6 million bushel storage capabilities, but that is less than a month’s supply, so a farmer’s ability to sell corn to an ethanol producer at times when supplies are low, typically in the winter and spring, will be a bonus.

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