POET Biorefining, the company that operates an ethanol plant at Macon, has announced that operations at that facility will be suspended due to the drought.
General Manager of the plant, Steve Burnett, explains what lead to the decision.
“There was no corn available in our draw area in the whole northeast third of the state, and to go outside the state and get it … number one its higher cost because there’s less supply but number two, you have to add pretty expensive truck freight to get it in here, so it just didn’t work.”
Burnett says he doesn’t know if POET will suspend operations at any of its other plants.
Missouri Corn Growers Association Vice President of Operations Gary Wheeler says his organization hasn’t heard of any other plants planning to shut down.
As to whether they will, he says, “It’s truly hard to say, not knowing the ins and outs and dealing with each plant on a daily basis. I do know that the rest of the plants, as the one there in Macon, are ran by some great folks and can make some great decisions for their farmers and I believe they’ll continue to do so.”
The plant will keep on all 44 employees and use the suspension to make about $14.5 million dollars in upgrades that will increase its efficiency and add to its product line. The upgrades began in November, and Burnett says they are evidence that the plant’s investors are “in it for the long haul.”
“They’re all farmers and businessmen that’s been here, most of them, all their lives. It’s not the first drought they’ve seen for sure. They know that with the right technology this plant can compete actually better than many.”
He says the investors voted to pursue the upgrades knowing that the plant would likely have to suspend operations due to a lack of corn.
The Macon plant produces 45 million gallons of denatured ethanol annually. The upgrades won’t change that output, but it will add to the list of products the plan produces.
“When this is finished, we’ll sell fuel ethanol, distiller’s dried grain, distiller’s wet grain, syrup, corn oil and carbon dioxide … more products than most ethanol plants can make.”
Work on the upgrades is scheduled to continue through September. Burnett says the suspension of production will continue indefinitely.