March 18 (Reuters) - Leading ethanol maker Valero Energy Corp has restarted its ethanol plant in Ohio and will resume operations at their only remaining offline facility in Indiana in the coming weeks, a company spokesman said on Monday.
"Margins have improved where the plants can be operated at a profitable level," Valero's spokesman Bill Day said.
Corn futures have plunged 16 percent from a record-high of $8.49 per bushel in August at the Chicago Board of Trade. The punishing costs reduced demand for the main feedstock for ethanol produced in the United States, but ethanol futures are trading at $2.61 per gallon, near the highest levels since August.
The worst drought in five decades last summer that pushed up grain prices led to shutdowns of at least 20 of the 211 U.S. ethanol plants, marking the first year of lower production of the biofuel in more than 30 years, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.
Valero idled three of their 10 plants in June. Operations resumed at the facility in Bloomingburg, Ohio, at the beginning of March while the plant in Linden, Indiana, will restart production within the next couple of weeks, Day said.
The company's plant in Albion, Nebraska, was restarted last month. Each of the three plants has an annual capacity of 110 million gallons of ethanol.
Valero is the third largest U.S. ethanol producer, behind No. 1 maker Archer Daniels Midland Co and privately-held POET Biorefining.