Ethanol plant to start up in April

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

The crowded jumble of new and used pipes and metal parts on the grounds of the Route 66 Ethanol plant are starting to find their place.
Crane operators, men on aerial lifts, welders and other workers are to create, by April, a series of pipelines, cookers, fermentation tanks and distillation columns that will generate 10 million gallons of ethanol a year, said Rochelle Huessman, director of environmental safety and health for SOZO Energy of Dallas, Texas.
Excluding economic incentives, the investment in the plant will be about $8 million, Huessman said.
When the plant starts up in April it will operate at half capacity for about 30 days to test the system, she said.
A small capacity plant, the Route 66 plant�s niche will be research and development.
Products used in different phases of ethanol production will be tested at the plant for others in the biofuel industry.
To produce ethanol, the plant will be cooking milo, or grain sorghum, Huessman said.
�In Quay County and farther north, 15 million bushels of milo are produced a year. And we�re going to be needing a third of that for the plant,� Huessman said.
The price of milo has increased, which means higher operational costs, but the cost of ethanol has also increased, she said.
In the coming months, the company will be talking with local producers regarding contracts, Huessman said.
It is also working with state agencies regarding hiring and training of workers. Between 25 and 28 employees will be hired by the end of March, she said.
In the meantime, Route 66 is working to bring a 1981-era plant into the 21st century and bring its original three-million-gallon capacity up to 10 million.
About 30 people from six different contractors are currently working at the plant at this phase of construction, Huessman said.
State officials will also be visiting this week to discuss and check out applications and conditions for regulatory permits, she said.
Since plans for the plant were first announced in summer 2006, SOZO has brought in another investor, Odyssey Energy Holdings, LLC, whose principals are from Oregon, according to an announcement made in early January. They are Derek L. Brown, the managing partner, and Chuck Chimento of Chehalem Energy, LCC., a principal of Odyssey.