“Were Getting Closer To Reopening The Ethanol Plant ”
Madera County Planning Commission approved a tentative parcel map split requested by Pacific Ethanol in July allowing the sale of the granary next to the idle ethanol plant on Ave 12 near Madera.
The granary is also idled since the ethanol plant shut down in January 2009 after operating for less than 3 years. The whole acreage was a lumber mill that closed down in 1995.
In their parcel map application Pacific Ethanol asked that the 137 acre parcel be split to allow the granary and the huge loop track that covers most of the property to be on one parcel and the 40 million gallon ethanol plant on the other. Currently a conveyor belt crosses the parcel. The train track infrastructure allows 100 car unit-trains brimming with corn to be parked to unload at the feed mill. The granary will in turn feed the ethanol plant. But the granary units could do much more the application says.
”While the current owner has handled all grain deliveries necessary to operate the ethanol plant,the granary has a much greater unused capacity and a feed mill” says a county staff report. Pacific Ethanol “wants to sell off Parcel 2 to a party with expertise in grain handling and feed production.”
The county approved the tentative map but Pacific Ethanol has yet to file a a final map application because that would imply a buyer is at hand.
The idea is not to dispose of the facility to raise cash or something but to invite an operator to participate in a business deal.
Pacific Ethanol spokesperson Paul Koehler says this step is preliminary but it ”sets the stage for what the company hopes to do – reopen the Madera Pacific Ethanol plant.”
“We’re getting closer” he says since ethanol making margins have improved from last year.
Koehler says that “2012 was record bad year for our industry with strong oversupply and high corn prices” due to the drought. By early 2013 things turned around and by Q2 there was a better balance” as the company reported their first profit in years.
“We will definitely reopen the plant“ he assures but won’t say just when they will pull the trigger. ”We want to make sure we can keep producing” noting that “California can use the ethanol.”
Besides exploring a sale of the adjacent granary Koehler says they would install corn oil-making technology at the ethanol plant prior to reopening,something they have done at several of their plants.
Could Add 60 Jobs
“We need to find the right player to work with.”
The county staff report says if both enterprises come back to life – it could add 30 jobs at each – 60 jobs for Madera County.