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Superior ethanol plant still operating

Spokesman refutes article that claimed plant was closing

September 19, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Jim Stark, Vice President, Investor & Media Relations for Green Plains, Inc. refuted statements made in a Reuters article published Monday. In a phone interview, Stark said the wire service article quoted unnamed sources in the industry who reported production had shut down at the Superior ethanol plant, and was cut at the Fairmont, Minnesota and Lakota, Iowa plants due to declining profit margins.

Stark said, "We are not closing the Superior ethanol plant. It was one of our original plants, opened 10 years ago."

Stark said cutting or halting production at various times is a standard operating procedure

Stark said employees at the Superior plant are still there working, "they're just not crushing corn." Ethanol plants across the industry, including the ones owned by Green Plains, Inc., have periods approximately twice per year of seasonal maintenance. One of these is often from late September through mid-October before the onslaught of harvested corn comes in to the plants.

"We clean machines, check and replace motor pumps, if we have new technology, we install and trouble-shoot it during these down times. We'd still take in corn if it was coming in. It's basic work every ethanol plant does right before harvesting corn," Stark said.

Stark said the company's profit margins, as reported to investors for the first two quarters of 2018, were not as robust as the company would have liked.

"Trade disputes with China and other countries are the reason the margin is not as robust as we'd like, but it's important to understand we produce more ethanol than we can use domestically," Stark said.

The expansion of E-15 would change that, Stark said.

"We also operate very locally, and have the capability of producing higher blends of ethanol to the fuel supply. We would like to see E-15 expanded in the domestic fuel supply; domestic demand would offset the issues with what we are unable to export. We need the ability to produce E-15 year round," Stark said.

It's not that all foreign markets are closed, however, Stark said.

"We will still export a record amount of ethanol: 1.6 million gallons. That's just 10 percent of our capacity, though. If China and other countries were in the mix, we could do 1.8 million gallons or higher," Stark said.

The Superior ethanol plant currently employs 46 people. It produces about 60 million gallons of ethanol from just over 20 million bushels of corn each year.

Green Plains, Inc. was founded in 2004 in Omaha. The company is the third leading producer of ethanol.



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