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8/26/2007 10:00:00 AM
Ethanol plant to St. Marys?
Mark Scott mscott@themercury.com
A Basehor-based energy company is planning to build a major ethanol plant near St. Marys, possibly next to Westar's Jeffrey Energy Center.

Leslie Turner, spokesperson for Ethanex Energy, would not confirm that the ethanol plant will be co-located with the Jeffrey plant, which is about 35 miles northeast of Manhattan.

Ethanex Energy's web page reports that the company is developing a 132 million gallon per year ethanol plant to be co-located with an electric utility in northeast Kansas. The web site also features a fairly detailed layout of the plant under the heading St. Marys (Kan.) dated June of 2007. Ethanol is an alternative fuel product made from renewable, sustainable resources.

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The company reports that the ethanol plant would be the first in the industry designed to employ a fractionation-based ethanol process powered by a third party utility's extraction team, so there will be no on-site combustion at the plant. The project utilizes existing rail, storage, utility and water infrastructure to provide capital cost advantages.

The company also reports 195,500 tons production per year of feed for poultry, swine and cattle, and 15,000 tons of food grade corn oil production per year.

Turner said the company is not ready to release any information on what it would cost to build the plant. However, construction would begin in 2008 with the plant being fully operational by 2009.

The plant is expected to create about 55 plant jobs and another 150 jobs in the area. More than 400 jobs are projected during the construction phase.

Pottawatomie County extension agent Glenn Brunkow said he was not sure to what degree the presence of an ethanol plant in Pott County would impact corn production in the region.

"I would think it would increase it, but I have no hard numbers," Brunkow said. "It seems like nearly every field there is I see a lot more corn and milo, especially on the river bottom. I wouldn't think this (plant) would do anything to lessen those numbers."

Brunkow said price has a lot to do with farmers increasing the acreage of corn planted. On Friday in St. Marys, he said corn was selling for $3.24 a bushel, compared to about $2.70 a year ago.

Riley County extension agent Greg McClure said the increase in the construction of ethanol plants in Kansas and the Midwest has already contributed to higher corn prices and more acres being planted.

McClure noted that Riley County has never been real strong in corn production, with wheat, milo and soybeans being the major crops. He does not anticipate a major shift to corn any time soon.

"People have already made what switches they could," McClure said. "I don't think we changed a whole lot."


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