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The EPA has approved certificaiton for a new ethanol plant to be built in this pictured location near Jamestown.

Dakota Spirit AgEnergy gets EPA certification

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JAMESTOWN -- North Dakota's congressional delegation applauded Friday the Environmental Protection Agency's certification of a new ethanol plant planned for the Jamestown area.

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The EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard-2 certification for the plant clears the way for Great River Energy to begin seeking financing for the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy facility planned for the Spiritwood Energy Park about 10 miles east of Jamestown. The plant has a construction estimate of about $130 million and will convert 23 million bushels of corn into 65 million gallons of ethanol per year.

"This is a really important step," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Friday after the certification was announced. "We've been working with EPA for some time on this. This plant has features that are cutting edge. The combination of traditional and renewable energies makes it a great concept."

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., called it an exciting day for Jamestown.

"I'm really excited for GRE," she said. "They have done everything right. This shouldn't have taken so long. The combination of old and new technology is what is great about it."

Dakota Spirit AgEnergy will use corn as a feedstock and use waste steam from the GRE Spiritwood Station for heat for processing. This combination of processes slowed the EPA approval.

"The EPA has some predefined pathways (for approval for Renewable Fuel Standards), said Greg Ridderbusch, vice president of business development and strategy for GRE. "Dakota Spirit didn't follow those paths so it had to be calculated separately."

To be certified by RFS2 standards, the fuel creation process must produce 20 percent less carbon or greenhouse gasses than standard motor fuels. Ridderbusch said the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy operations plan was approved as a unique pathway to those standards.

The RFS2 certificate allows GRE to sell the ethanol as a renewable fuel, which increases its value.

The plant may see future expansions improving its ability to use a variety of agricultural materials. During early planning, a second phase using plant waste like corn stover or wheat straw as a feedstock was discussed.

"We have that aspiration," Ridderbusch said. "But what we are building now is a 65 million-gallon ethanol facility. I think there are a lot of possibilities for the future and other types of ethanol production. We need to get the base facility up and running, then think about those things."

The construction of the ethanol plant will provide a second user for waste steam from the currently mothballed Spiritwood Station. The 99 megawatt coal-fired power plant has sat idle since completion of testing after construction in 2011. Ridderbusch said the plant is scheduled to come online in January 2015. When it does it will provide steam energy to the Cargill Malt plant as well as Dakota Spirit AgEnergy.

Also planned for the Spiritwood Energy Park is the CHS Inc. nitrogen fertilizer plant. That $1.2 billion facility will produce anhydrous ammonia commonly used as a farm fertilizer. Construction completion of that plant is slated for 2016.

With certification in hand, GRE is now arranging financing for the ethanol plant. Once that is solidified, Ridderbusch said they hope to hold a groundbreaking and begin construction yet this summer.

The construction process is estimated to last about 18 months and employ up to 275 construction workers. When fully operational it will employ about 36 people.

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