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Preparation for Spiritwood soybean plant moving forward

A location south of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy near Spiritwood will be the future home of the North Dakota Soybean Processors plant. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service1 / 2
Scott Austin2 / 2

SPIRITWOOD, N.D. — Preparations for the planned North Dakota Soybean Processors crushing plant at Spiritwood are moving forward on several fronts, according to Scott Austin, CEO of Minnesota Soybean Processors, the parent of North Dakota Soybean Processors.

Preliminary estimates pegged the cost of the project at $287 million. The plant would process 125,000 bushels of soybeans per day into soy oil, biodiesel and soymeal.

"We are progressing pretty well, actually," Austin said. "We've worked through the agreements on utilities and most of those should be in place by the end of the year. The air quality permit should be in place in the next couple of weeks."

An equity drive to recruit investors in the project is also moving forward with meetings scheduled in Valley City and Jamestown in the next two weeks.

Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., said similar meetings have been well attended in the past.

"They have been very well received by the public," she said. "We expect a lot of enthusiasm at these meetings. The farmers are pretty much caught up in the field and should know how they will end the year financially."

The meetings are scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 11 at FEI Inc. in Valley City and on Dec. 12 in the JSDC lower level conference room in Jamestown.

"We still need to raise about $40 million to reach the point we can close escrow," Austin said. "We have raised about $8 million (from local investors) and just over $68 million with the Minnesota Soybean Processors investment."

Before North Dakota Soybean Processors can close escrow and begin construction on the project, it must reach its investment goals and have in place permits and utility agreements.

While the goal of another $40 million seems high, Austin said it is attainable.

"It is doable," he said. "The project has initially been well received. We'll take a couple months off for harvest and we'll take two weeks off at the end of the year for a break for the holidays. We need to keep it in perspective. Minnesota Soybean Processors took three and a half years to raise the money to start the project."

Austin said North Dakota Soybean Processors has had a lot of interest from potential business partners in the project.

"We're pretty confident in our plans with strategic partners," he said.

Some of the partnerships under negotiations could reduce the financing requirements for the project to move forward.

"We could be ready to go at that point," Austin said. "We could break escrow and have the money to start construction."

Earlier discussions had planned for a groundbreaking this fall.

Austin said the changes could simplify the project.

"I think our investors would be pleased with the changes," he said. "In the end, the more equity investors we have, the better the project is for all investors."

The current market for soy oil and soymeal is expanding, Austin said.

"From an industry standpoint, things are growing and the export market is growing," he said. "Our confidence in this project has never been higher."

Groundbreaking could come as early as next spring. Previously, a two-year construction timeline was announced although that could change, depending on the strategic agreements reached this winter.

"We've always known we have a broad base of support," Austin said. "We may have been a little aggressive in our timeline at first. We need to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint."

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