Hutchinson — A Kansas company will start building a new ethanol plant capable of producing 55 million gallons of fuel per year early next year, executives with Orion Ethanol said Thursday.
The Pratt-based firm will build the plant west of Hugoton, next to a Cargill grain elevator, said Orion CEO Richard Jarboe. The company already is building a plant in Pratt and has plans to build two others in Oklahoma, he said.
Last month, Conestoga Energy Partners LLC broke ground on an ethanol plant near Garden City. Proposals to develop new biofuel factories are also in the works in Seward, Grant and Haskell counties, officials said.
The alternative fuel factory in Stevens County has been planned for two years, but Baker said officials waited to announce the deal until it crystallized.
The Stevens County complex will cost $85 million, Jarboe said. Once the project is finished in early 2008, the firm will consider building another 55-million gallon plant at the same site, he said.
Ethanol plants have attracted hundreds of investors to the corn belt in recent years, in large part thanks to rising oil prices and new federal standards that mandate higher use of renewable fuels.
Ethanol is a clean-burning fuel that can be made from ground corn, sorghum and other natural materials that are blended with gasoline.
Haskell is the only southwest Kansas county to sell E-85, a fuel blend containing 85 percent ethanol. The Cenex station in Sublette also sells biodiesel, a blend of diesel and soy oil.
Sales of E-85 have been slow, said Terry Presley, petroleum manager for the Sublette Cooperative, but he's hopeful they'll pick up as Kansans learn more about the fuel. He said the coop's board members believe ethanol is a good way to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
"We're really going to be able to kick those foreign imports in the head," he said.