POET plans big investment in local plant

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The former Altra Biofuels ethanol plant should soon be vacant no more.

CLOVERDALE -- The former Altra Biofuels plant has a new owner, who says it will invest more than $30 million in upgrades to the existing facility, while creating new jobs in Putnam County and helping the local agriculture business community.

POET Biorefining announced it purchased the 147-acre facility, located on US 231 north of Cloverdale, last week after it went up for sheriff's sale for $107 million.

"We have been looking at potential acquisitions for some time," said POET's chief executive officer Jeff Broin. "This plant, in this community, will be a perfect fit for what we do at POET."

The ethanol plant has been sitting in cold shutdown since Altra officially closed its doors in December 2008. Although Altra did not disclose a reason for the shutdown at the time, low ethanol prices and the continued financial squeezes were likely to have been key factors.

Even though several plants across the country remain idled since the 2008 market crash, Broin said POET's new technologies continue to help the company remain competitive and successful in the long-term.

As part of the upgrade in Cloverdale, POET will install its proprietary process technology including its patent-pending fermentation process called BPX, which uses enzymes instead of heat, reducing energy use by 10 to 15 percent.

By adding BPX to the facility, it will allow for the production of Dakota Gold Dried Distiller Grains, POET's branded high-protein livestock feed. The Cloverdale plant will have the capacity to produce 246,500 tons of Dakota Gold annually.

"Dakota Gold is the industry leader in feed products due to its high nutrient content and the company's commitment to providing a consistent product to the market," Broin said.

In addition, POET will install a water recovery system and pollution control equipment during the upgrade. A number of other processes could be installed at the plant in the future, including cellulosic ethanol production from corn cobs, which POET will commercialize soon in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

"(The Cloverdale) plant has all the ingredients we need to put together a top operation: a steady corn supply, rail access, a great workforce and productive farmers," Broin said. "The ample corn supply in the area includes significant quantities of agriculture waste, making the plant a likely location for cellulosic ethanol production in the future."

POET, which employs 1,500 people throughout the Midwest, plans to begin hiring production and supervisory staff at the plant within 90 days. The company anticipates being at full production in the next nine months, after the facility upgrades are completed.

"Biofuels continue to be a vibrant industry here in Indiana," said Lt. Governor Becky Skillman.

Bioenergy is making a significant contribution to the Hoosier economy with the current production of ethanol and its byproducts worth $1.3 million at current prices, according to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

Indiana's ethanol plants have a combined production capacity of nearly $1.1 billion gallons and require 423 million bushels of corn annually.

Currently, POET operates 26 plants in seven states, with a combined annual production capacity of more than 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol, making the 22-year-old company the largest ethanol producer in the world. It operates plants in North Manchester, Portland and Alexandria in the Hoosier state.

"We're glad POET is making another commitment to Indiana and its workers," Skillman said. "These new jobs and the use of this existing facility will be a tremendous boost for Putnam County."

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation will transfer existing biofuel production credits to the Sioux City, S.D.-based company based on its job-creation plans. The Putnam County Council will consider transferring additional existing property tax abatement from the Altra facility.

"Putnam County is pleased to have POET join our community through its acquisition of the ethanol plant at Cloverdale," said Putnam County Council President Darrel Thomas. "The benefits to our agriculture business community, the local tax base, the South Putnam school district and the creation of good paying jobs are welcome and greatly appreciated."

Broin said the productive agriculture community in and around Cloverdale, coupled with POET's unique processes and technology, will make POET Biorefining -- Cloverdale a leader in the industry.

However, that was the same thing Altra said in October 2006 after commencing on the $170 million project.

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  • Let's hope this venture is better managed than the last one. I'm sure IDEM will be watching this closely.

    -- Posted by Altraternative on Fri, Jul 23, 2010, at 1:23 PM
  • Should have said, I'm sure it will be better managed as long as Gilbert doesn't come back.

    -- Posted by Altraternative on Wed, Jul 28, 2010, at 4:06 PM
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