Iowa ethanol plant hosts grand opening

Published 2:33 pm Saturday, August 2, 2008

It looks big from a distance.

Up close, it is huge.

The $150 million Absolute Energy ethanol plant south of the stateline road at Lyle celebrated its grand opening last week.

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On Thursday, more than 600 board members, corn growers and other invited guests toured the plant.

On Friday, the grand opening was open to the public.

“I was surprised,” said Gerald Halverson, rural St. Ansgar, Iowa, “I’ve been up around here and seen it from a distance, but this is the first time I’ve seen it up close.”

Halverson is a retired Rural Electric Cooperative employee with 37 years of experience.

“I think this is a good idea,” he said, “turning corn into fuel. I drive a car that uses a lot of it.”

According to Halverson, he paid $3.62 cents per gallon for gasoline Thursday in St. Ansgar.

“If this can help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, I’m all for it,” Halverson said.

It didn’t take much to convince Ron Hulshizer, Otranto, Iowa, that ethanol is a good renewable alternative source of fuel.

“My brother, Russ, brings our grain up here to sell,” said Hulshizer. “I’d say it’s a darn good idea.

“It’s been good for us,” the corn grower said. “The market has been up.”

According to Hulshizer, his neighbors all support the ethanol plant and sell grain to Absolute Energy.

Hulshizer said he and his farming family all use 10 percent ethanol mixed gasoline in their vehicles.

The guests received guided tours of the facility serviced by two rail lines along the stateline road.

Tom Edgington, Absolute Energy board secretary, told one group, “The project came in on time and on budget.”

Fagen Inc., considered the world’s largest “green energy design-builder,” was the general contractor for the project completed five months ago.

The plant operates 24/7 with 42 employees.

The plan had its first grind Feb. 12, loaded out the first ethanol March 3 and loaded out the first distilled grain two days later.

Corn isn’t the only thing being consumed at the ethanol plant — so are large quantities of water.

According to Edgington, it takes 2 1/2 gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol that’s worth about $2.42 on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Meanwhile, it takes four to five gallons of water to produce one gallon of petroleum, according to Edgington.

By December, corn is expected to crack the $6 per bushel price and reach $6.40 per bushel in March 2009, according to one grain market expert.

Absolute Energy officials like to say “You can see the steam for miles.”

When farmers see that steam, they see dollar signs.

The 100,000 bushels of corn arriving each day at Absolute Energy are producing corn ethanol and dried distillers grain solubles all shaded in green — backs, that is.