When Mead E3 Biorefinery Reopens Remains Unclear

Company working on reorganization plan.

More than four months after the country's first close-loop biorefinery near Mead shut down due to mechanical and financial difficulties, E3 Biofuels still has no set timetable on when its facility will reopen.

E3 Biofuels shut down the facility Nov. 30, 2007, after mechanical failures occurred in a boiler and conveyor system in the ethanol plant. The mechanical failures, coupled with the jump in corn prices, "made it difficult to be profitable," according to a company spokesman at the time.

The biorefinery had operated for six months, but not at full capacity.

After closedown, E3 Biofuels filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
John Curran, plant manager, visited recently with about 50 members of the 25x'25 alliance the day before that group's national summit in Omaha in mid-March. He told them that the company is developing a reorganization plan to address the problems.

In a separate phone interview, Curran said there were no problems with the methane digesting system at the facility. "It really exceeded our expectations. It was converting manure from the 28,000-head, confined feedlot into biogas to power the ethanol plant. The problems were in the 20- to 25-million-gallon ethanol plant."

In the much-publicized biorefinery, ethanol byproducts from the ethanol process were to be fed to cattle in the adjacent feedlot, which has been at the site for more than 30 years.

The closed-loop biorefinery was hailed as the next step in environmentally sound biofuels production in which no fossil fuels were needed to produce ethanol and where livestock waste problems would be solved by converting manure to methane gas.

E3 maintains that the concept and technology of a closed-loop system remains sound and the company at one time indicated it had plans for other facilities. Those plans are on hold, at least for now.

Curran says that since there are few existing confined cattle feedlots, the closed-loop concept would work well with dairy operations.

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