Any status review of operating ethanol plants in Nebraska is tenuous, at best, since the dynamic industry is such a moving target.
But Nebraska did reach a milestone late this summer: With the opening of the 45-million-gallon-per-year U.S. BioEnergy plant near Ord, the state obtained the capacity to produce 1.02 billion gallons of ethanol, says Steve Sorum, project manager with the Nebraska Ethanol Board. There are 16 operating facilities now in Nebraska, he adds.
That milestone also pushed Nebraska into the No. 2 spot in ethanol production capacity in the United States, overtaking Illinois. Iowa remains the top producer of ethanol with more than 2 billion gallons of annual output.
According to Sorum, 378 million bushels of corn - which represents 25.2% of the projected 1.49 billion Nebraska corn crop for 2007 - will be consumed to produce 1 billion gallons of the renewable fuel.
Much more striking in Sorum's view are the numbers when 10 additional plants come on line in the coming weeks and months. "By the first quarter of 2008, Nebraska ethanol production capacity will grow another 800 million gallons," he says. "The new plants are larger today than in the past, averaging about 80 million gallons of annual output per facility."
Add to that expansions Sorum says are underway at five existing plants: Husker Ag near Plainview, KAAPA Ethanol near Minden, Midwest Renewable Energy near Sutherland, Cargill in Blair, and the just-opened Abengoa facility in Ravenna.
Total ethanol produced from the 10 plants under construction and the expansions will be total 1.16 billion gallons.
"So, by the end of the first quarter of 2008, if these plants go online, we will have an annual ethanol production capacity of 2.16 billion gallons," he says. "That means ethanol would need 806 million bushels of Nebraska corn, or nearly 54% of a 1.49-billion-bushel crop."