Ethanol Facility Opens, Others Planned

By Published On: October 20, 2006

Pacific Ethanol began producing the gasoline additive ethanol on October 17 in Madera County, and a second company also aims to build ethanol facilities in the state. “We remain on schedule to develop 220 million gallons of production capacity by the middle of 2008 and 420 million gallons by the end of 2010,” stated Neil Kohler, Pacific Ethanol chief executive officer. The new plant is expected to produce 35 gallons a year of the alternative fuel. Pacific Ethanol is also obtaining permits for another ethanol plant in Brawley. That facility would make 60 million gallons a year of the alternative fuel, said David Black, Imperial County planner. Another company, Cilion, is in the permit process for a plant north of El Centro that would make 110 million gallons a year of ethanol, according to Black. “It takes roughly a year to build a plant,” said Rory Mackin, Pacific Ethanol spokesperson. Each plant costs about $50 million to build, he said. California consumed 900 million gallons of ethanol as a 5.7 percent gasoline blend in 2005, according to a TIAX alternative-fuel-market assessment for the California Energy Commission. Much of that was trucked or railed in from the Midwest. The state will need another 700 million gallons a year to meet the CEC’s goal of 10 percent ethanol content in California gasoline. “This is starting to be a pretty big net dent in petroleum consumption,” said Larry Waterland, TIAX consultant. Pacific Ethanol’s Madera plant will make ethanol from corn shipped in from the Midwest by train on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The company will sell a byproduct of the production process – known as wet distiller’s grain – to nearby dairy farms and feedlots as animal feed. The distiller’s grain is composed of the protein, fat, fiber, minerals, and vitamins that remain after the corn’s starch is converted to ethanol, according to the company. – William J. Kelly

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