$205 million facility
SIKESTON -- Sikeston has been selected as the location for a new ethanol plant.
Bootheel Agri-Energy LLC announced its decision to purchase the option on approximately 160 acres at the Sikeston Business, Education and Technology Park, during a news conference this morning.
The land will be use to build a coal-fired 100-million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant, according to David Herbst, president of Bootheel Agri-Energy. "The project's estimated price tag is $205 million," he said.
The plant is projected to use 35.6 million bushels of corn per year to produce the ethanol, a grain alcohol that will be blended with gasoline and distributed at fueling stations.
"We're really delighted," said Mayor Mike Marshall. "Missouri is known as the 'Show-Me State.' With this new project, we're going to be known as the 'Show-You State' as we show neighboring states and the rest of the nation how to reduce our dependency on foreign oil."
Scott County Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn agreed.
"You know the old saying, 'win-win situation.' In this situation, we have several that win: the consumer, Sikeston, Scott County, Missouri, and the nation in addition to investors in the plant," he said. "Everybody wins with the new project that's coming. It's a very exciting day in Sikeston and Scott County."
The project consists of two plants that will be located side-by-side: the ethanol production facility and a coal-fire boiler.
"It's all one project - they refer to the coal plant as an 'energy center,'" Herbst said. "The process of making ethanol requires a lot of heat. We're going to use steam produced in a coal-fired boiler to make our heat, which is more economical than using natural gas."
The boiler plant is designed to also run on natural gas in the event that coal is not available or gas prices drop below coal prices. Natural gas is presently over five times more expensive that coal.
"We're estimating between the ethanol plant and the coal plant together, there will be 55 to 65 new jobs - this plant will run 24/7," Herbst said. "And typically these jobs are fairly well-paying jobs."
In addition to providing a new market for corn farmers and producing an alternative fuel product, the plant will also produce a product for livestock farmers.
"There is a co-product in addition to ethanol that is called distiller's grains," Herbst said. "We will produce about 320,000 tons per year of distiller's grains."
Distiller's grains, he explained, are the leftovers after the starch is extracted from the corn during ethanol production process.
"It is a very good feed product for dairy, cattle, swine, poultry and turkeys," Herbst said.
The Bootheel Agri-Energy LLC Board of Directors was formed Sept. 26 and is made up of 20 individuals from St. Genevieve to Portageville who are either agricultural producers or otherwise involved in agribusiness, Herbst said.
After publicly announcing the project in November, a feasibility study narrowed possible plant locations down to two sites in Sikeston and one river site at the SEMO Port near Scott City.
Sikeston emerged as the preferred location but a final decision was delayed somewhat by measures to ensure the project would be able to meet state seismic requirements.
"We have done extensive soil bore samples and analysis to determine the substructure that will be required underneath the plant," Herbst said.
The availability of corn, access to Interstate 55 and I-57, and rail access all make Sikeston a prime location, according to the board members.
"The rail is a huge benefit in the ethanol business and we're 28 miles away from two excellent Mississippi River ports," Herbst said. "We are one of the few plants in the nation that is going to have the ability to take advantage of every type of transportation that is offered in this country. In the ethanol business, transportation is king."
The plant will be built on a 158-acre plot located north of Atlas Cold Storage and CTS Trailers on the west side of the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks, according to Ed Dust, director of the Sikeston Department of Economic Development. "I'm very pleased we were able to convince the people of Bootheel Agri-Energy LLC to build this in Sikeston," he said.
"Sikeston's been great to work with," Herbst said. "They've been very patient with us, gone above and beyond the call of duty in getting us to locate here."
"It was a total community effort in which the Board of Municipal Utilities was a very important factor," Dust said. "I'm very pleased Sikeston had the opportunity to bring a facility to our area that is going to be so beneficial to the farmers within a 100-mile radius of Sikeston."
Plant construction should begin sometime in November, according to Herbst.
"We may actually be able to do some foundation work before then," he said. "Preparatory work could actually start as early as this summer."
There are very few 100 million-gallon plants in the U.S. All Missouri's existing ethanol plants are 50-million gallon plants or smaller.
With the latest national energy bill mandating the use of alternative fuels, the demand for ethanol is expected to rise.
"The ethanol industry is obviously very profitable as well as having tremendous benefits for local communities," Herbst said. "We're actually adding value to corn rather than shipping it down the river for commodity prices. Value-added agriculture is going to be required to keep American agricultural profitable."