Ethanol offers good news for Golden Plains

Friday, June 18, 2004

With the June 30 deadline only days away, it is super encouraging to hear that the ethanol projects in Cambridge and at the McCook-Perry site are on the road to qualifying for state incentives.

Complying with the rules set forth by the Nebraska Legislature, the pilot plants had to be producing at a rate equal to 100,000 gallons of fuel grade alcohol per year. That equates to 274 gallons a day, or 8,333 gallons per month.

Both achieved that pace. At the Horizon Renewable Energy, LLC, plant in Cambridge, the production demonstration started on May 27, 2004, and concluded June 10, 2004. During that time, the plant produced more than 11,000 gallons of fuel grade ethanol for sale to R&C Petroleum of North Platte.

Similar results are being achieved at the SW Energy, LLC production facility, located four miles west of McCook near Frenchman Valley's Perry grain elevator.

"It's running like clockwork," the job supervisor, Robert Keeney of TE Ibberson Co., told the Gazette Thursday.

Now that the first phase requirements have been met, both the Horizon and SW Energy projects are setting their sights on full scale developments. For both, the goal is to have their major plant developments started before the end of this year.

Even in the early developmental phase, the ethanol projects have made a contribution to the area economy. At the Perry site, the supervisor said employment during installation reached a high of 36 people. The development also attracted top-notch technical people, including design and installation officials from Canada, Minnesota, Illinois and Virginia.

Why is such an intense effort being made to launch these projects? Because this area and this nation are poised for a breakthrough in the production of fuel. After years of total dependence on petroleum, America's agriculture states have demonstrated that fuel grade alcohol -- made from corn, milo and other sources -- can reduce complete reliance on oil.

Nebraska has been a leader in ethanol development, getting involved with marketing and development years ago, then approving incentives to encourage production. The strategy worked, leading to the start of a series of new plants, including the impressive ethanol production facility in Trenton which is already in full production.

A half century ago, Southwest Nebraska was the center for oil development in Nebraska. Fifty years later, it is a mark of distinction for this area that we are also at the forefront of ethanol production.

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