November 19, 2009

Chief Ethanol Fuels turns 25

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Nebraska's first modern ethanol plant - Chief Ethanol Fuels near Hastings - is celebrating 25 years in operation with an open house next Monday, Nov. 23.

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson will provide keynote remarks at 1:00 p.m. Bob Eihusen, president of Chief Industries, Chief Ethanol's parent company, and Duane Kristensen, general manager of Chief Ethanol Fuels.

Tours of the plant will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nebraska grew from this initial plant to become the second-largest ethanol producing state in the country today. The state currently has 23 ethanol plants with a combined production capacity of nearly 2 billion gallons of ethanol. These ethanol plants also directly employ some 1,000 Nebraskan's and represent more than $1.4 billion in capital investment in rural parts of the state.

As for Chief Ethanol Fuels, the Nebraska Ethanol Board put together a short history of the company:

Originally constructed by American Diversified Corporation, the plant was purchased by Chief Industries of Grand Island, Neb., in November 1990. It was the first commercial scale fuel ethanol production plant in the state and, since it started production in 1984, has continued to produce high-octane, clean-burning ethanol 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- shipping it across the state and across the nation.

Since 1984, production capacity has increased from 10 million gallons per year to approximately 70 million gallons per year today, thanks to several expansions that began in 1993 and continuous improvements today. Corn consumption at the plant has grown from 4 million bushels per year to more than 25 million bushels annually. The plant purchases corn from area elevators and farmers within a 60-mile radius.

Chief Ethanol Fuels also produces distillers grains, a co-product of ethanol production that is fed to cattle. Chief Ethanol markets its wet distillers grains to area feedlots. The plant also dries some of the product for shipment as far as the West Coast.

Here's a breakdown of some of the company's numbers:
  • 25,000,000+ bushels of corn ground each year
  • 70,000,000 gallons of ethanol produced each year
  • 650,000 tons of distillers grains produced each year
  • 60 full-time equivalent employees
  • 25,000 trucks of corn processed per year
  • 23,000 trucks of distillers grains shipped out each year
Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said that the Chief Ethanol Fuels plant was Nebraska’s initial stake in the ground in terms of declaring ethanol as a major economic development initiative for the state.

"Nebraska has a unique combination of corn, cattle and ethanol," Sneller said. "Agriculture is the economic engine that drives Nebraska, and ethanol is adding value in very powerful ways that reverberate throughout our state. It is important that we continue to support and develop this industry for the good of Nebraska and for the good of our nation."

Sneller added that the outlook for the sustainability of the ethanol industry is good.

"Corn producers continue to grow more corn on less land and with less water—and ethanol producers continue to squeeze more ethanol out of a bushel of corn with less energy and less water," he said. "Efficiency will improve profitability and will continue to position ethanol as a key component in America’s energy and economic future."

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