Gevo plant goes 'green'
Under a two-phase plan announced June 4, the Gevo, Inc., plant in Luverne is expected to become the first bio-based production company to use wind and livestock manure as energy sources to reduce its carbon footprint on the environment.
Gevo purchased the Agri-Energy production facility on the southwest edge of Luverne in 2010.
Chief Executive Officer Patrick Gruber spoke with 30 Luverne plant employees and other invited guests June 4 at Take 16 Brewing Co. on Main Street Luverne.
He outlined plans for expanding the production capacity and a two-phase plan to retrofit the Luverne plant so its corn-based products can be sold in the more profitable low-carbon fuel market, due to its use of renewable energy sources.
“Green energy is a big deal for all of us in biofuel production,” Gruber said.
States like California, the first to enact low-carbon fuel standards in 2009, reward companies for decreasing carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing processes.
Fuel manufacturers like Gevo receive carbon intensity ratings based on how the fuel is made and how much carbon is used in its generation.
The lower the CI rating, the higher the retail prices for its products.
Gruber said he aims to make the Luverne plant the lowest CI-rated site in America.
“This is the fastest way to make this plant profitable,” he said.
In the past nine years, Gevo invested about $70 million to add new biofuels to its original ethanol production and increase its animal feed production capacities.
Phase 1 of the green energy plan is to develop the Rock County Wind Fuel project, which focuses on lowering the plant’s use of electricity from coal-fired generators.
Gevo will spend $1.8 million for electricity in 2019, produced from carbon sources.
It’s partnering with Juhl Energy of Chanhassen, Minnesota, to construct two wind turbines to provide electricity directly to the Luverne plant.
“Of all the projects we are involved in, this is the most exciting,” said Clay Norrbom, Juhl Energy’s managing director.
Under the plan, Juhl and Gevo officials will ask county leaders for approval to begin construction this fall on two wind turbines along County Road 4 about 2 1/2 miles west of the plant.
Project completion is expected in 2020. Capital expenditures for the project are estimated to be $20 million.
The wind fuel project will be the first to apply for a permit under the county’s new renewable energy ordinance approved in the fall of 2018.
Gevo is expected to apply for the permit this month.
The county permits wind farms producing 5 megawatts or less of electricity. Larger production farms require a state permit.
Once finished, the Gevo plant will blend electricity from the city grid with that generated from the turbines in its production process.
Lowering the carbon impact rating for the plant output is expected to increase Gevo’s use of corn by half a million bushels to 7.5 million annually.
Phase 2 of Gevo’s green energy plan involves developing a $100 million biogas production facility near Luverne using cattle manure. The idea is to use biogas to reduce the plant’s use of natural gas in the plant.
Construction for the biogas facility takes place after 2020 with no specific timeframe outlined at the June 4 meeting.
Gevo expects that the successful implementation of all phases of its green energy plan would increase its current workforce from 30 direct workers and 20 contractors to 50 workers with the possibility of an additional 50 contractors.
Gevo became the first biobased plant to produce isobutanol in 2012.
The Luverne plant was originally built in 1996 with ethanol production beginning in 1998.
In addition to isobutanol and ethanol, Gevo also manufactures jet fuel and isooctane from corn.
The Luverne plant will continue corn oil production and the planned expansion will also increase the amount of high protein animal feed from the biobased fuel production process.
More information is at www.gevoluvernewind.com.