ADM ethanol plant now in operation

by Bekah Porter

CEDAR RAPIDS – The world’s largest ethanol complex is now operating in Cedar Rapids.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) representatives recently confirmed that the company’s new multi-million dollar facility is in its early production phases, and state officials say this announcement officially ushers in what should be a long and prosperous reign for Iowa’s king corn.

Local leaders have waited more than four years for the ethanol to begin flowing from the facility that generated excitement nationwide. In May 2006, the biofuels giant announced it would build a massive dry corn milling plant adjacent to the wet processing plant already stationed in Cedar Rapids.

This past week, Gov. Chet Culver stepped into the new structure and become one of the first outsiders to see it functioning.

Mr. Culver and his staff dubbed the complex “massive, modern and highly efficient” and said it will keep Iowa on the straight path to national leadership in renewable energy.

Here’s a look at the numbers that make ADM’s Cedar Rapids location so impressive:

300 million – Gallons the dry mill is able to produce annually.

Initial plans for the site called for an annual output of 275 million gallons of biofuels, but ADM officials said that “process enhancements during construction and commissioning increased annual capacity” to some 300 million gallons.

The facility is permitted to produce 400 million gallons and could do so in the future, although the company did not comment on whether that output was expected.

300,000 – Bushels of corn to be processed daily at the dry mill facility.

Much of this corn will be a boost to the area’s economy, as ADM officials said the company will “continue to purchase and process locally grown corn.”

The dry mill will process about 100 million bushels of corn more annually than is currently processed at the wet mill.

100 – Acres the complex occupies.

The complex contains several new facilities, including corn storage silos, loading docks for dried distillers grains and buildings for mash preparation, evaporation and distillation.

Additionally, the complex includes the corn wet mill, a rail car facility, a trucking building and a co-generation plant that provides the company with steam and electricity.

Workers have completed all building construction.

470 – Employees working at the ADM complex.

According to Mr. Culver’s office, 470 employees are now working onsite. This is an uptick of 85 employees from two years ago when only the wet mill operated. ADM officials said hiring is complete.

These extra employees are just part of a new movement to bring in good-paying, renewable energy-related jobs, said John Hedgecoth, Mr. Culver’s senior advisor.

“There’s an amazing, rapid growth within that industry, and companies like ADM are leading the way,” he said.

Mr. Hedgecoth added that some 9,000 new jobs would be created in Iowa in the next four years if the renewable fuels industry continues growing at its current pace. These additional energy-related jobs would add to an estimated 83,000 workers employed by Iowa’s biofuels industry.

This potential growth pairs well with past expansion in the industry, as shown by a 2009 PEW Charitable Trust report that said Iowa’s growth in clean jobs registered at 26.1 percent.

One-third – Capacity at which the Cedar Rapids complex now operates.

The plant is now up and running but not yet at 100 percent.

ADM officials told Mr. Culver that the facility is now running at about 30 percent – or 100 million gallons annually. The facility should be at 60 percent – or about 200 million gallons annually – later this summer.

After that, it would take a “period of months” before the complex operated at full capacity, which is 300 million gallons annually.

The plant began initial operations the week of June 15, according to ADM officials.

$540 million – Estimated cost of the dry mill addition to the complex.

Various news reports say that ADM paid more than $500 million to build the dry mill and the buildings required by the new facet of production.

ADM officials declined comment on the matter but did say that the facility is the last of seven projects that constituted a $2.6 billion capital investment, which was the largest to date for the company.

24 – Products derived from corn at the Cedar Rapids plant.

It’s not just ethanol, ADM officials say. Some two dozen additional corn products are created at the facility. It’s not just corn, either. ADM also processes oilseeds, wheat and cocoa.

1.8 billion – Gallons of ethanol ADM can produce annually throughout all its facilities.

ADM officials say this production level helps meet “America’s commitment to the increased use of biofuels.”

Additionally, officials expect this high production capacity to bolster the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a piece of legislation currently mandating American ethanol producers to provide 12 billion gallons of ethanol annually.

ADM officials estimate America’s annual ethanol demand to be about 12.8 billion gallons annually. The RFS mandate will increase to 15 billion by 2015.

Mr. Culver told ADM officials during his recent tour that he remained dedicated to increasing Iowa’s access to a 15 percent ethanol blend.

His advisor, Mr. Hedgecoth, said that Mr. Culver has written a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency to request that the organization stop delaying the implementation of the 15 percent blend.

“This would immediately expand the need for ethanol and would keep a lot of these ethanol producers going,” he said. “They need to know they have a solid market to deliver their product to, and that’s one of the things the governor is working on.”

7 – Days the existing wet mill shut down due to the 2008 floods.

While the flooding failed to affect the actual construction site, it did hinder workers’ ability to access the water supply necessary for production.