By Christine Stebbins and Michael Hirtzer
CHICAGO Nov 4 U.S. ethanol plants that have
been shut for as many as five years are now coming back online
as a record U.S. harvest has pushed down corn prices and
improved profit margins for makers of the biofuel.
Agribusiness giant Cargill Inc on Monday said it
restarted a plant in Fort Dodge, Iowa, that the company
purchased in 2011 from corn processor Tate & Lyle.
The announcement came as Noble Group Ltd said it
will soon restart an Indiana ethanol plant that was shut for a
year while another facility that was idled for five years in
Ohio came back online last month.
U.S. farmers are gathering a corn crop expected to reach a
record 14 billion bushels. The big harvest is replenishing
stockpiles diminished by 2012's blistering drought and
pressuring benchmark Chicago Board of Trade corn futures
to the lowest levels in three years.
Ethanol margins are the highest since late 2009 - the last
year of a record corn harvest - as ethanol makers turn profits
buying corn and then selling the biofuel as well as byproducts
such as distillers grains and corn oil.
Minneapolis-based Cargill, a top U.S. ethanol producer
according to the Renewable Fuels Association, will eventually
produce 115 million gallons yearly at the Fort Dodge plant.
"When full production capacity is reached, the plant will
consume 150,000 bushels of corn a day and turn out five
products, including dextrose, ethanol and SweetBran feed for
cattle," Al Viaene, manager of Cargill's Fort Dodge plant, said
in a statement.
Cargill, with annual sales of $136.7 billion in the fiscal
year that ended May 31, also produces ethanol at plants in
Blair, Nebraska, and Eddyville, Iowa.
Noble Group was revamping a plant in South Bend, Indiana,
with an annual capacity of 100 million gallons that should
restart early in 2014. Liquidators purchased the facility at
auction in January for $2.5 million and then sold it in July to
Noble Americas, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Noble Group.
"They want to get going as fast as possible. They are
planning for the first quarter, certainly by the end of March,"
said Chris Fielding, the director of business development for
the city of South Bend.
Noble Group did not return requests for comment.