Ethanol plant brewing for Northwest

A 20 million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant to be built on the shores of the Columbia River promises 100 new jobs and a growing market for the nation's corn.

The $60 million complex will include the ethanol plant, a grain elevator, a barge dock on the river, and a feed mill. During construction there will be some 200 to 300 jobs, with the completed complex providing the permanent work. Construction is to begin in the fall, with completion targeted for late spring or early summer of 1982.

The multimillion-dollar project has been initiated by Sunriver Farms Inc., which owns 37,000 acres of land being farmed in Oregon and in Washington, across the Columbia.

The plant will be the largest ethanol producer in the nation using agricultural crops directly as feedstock.Some of the 7.7 million bushels of corn needed annually will come from Sunriver Farms land, but much of it will be purchased from farmers in both Oregon and Washington.

The 20 million gallons of ethanol produced annually will help turn out some 200 million gallons of motor fuel. Present US output of ethanol is 111 million gallons, making the output of the projected Oregon plant equal to nearly one-fifth of present national production.

As demand for ethanol increases, it will be possible to expand production of this Oregon plant by the use of add-on production modules.

Phillip J. Stevens, president of Ultrasystems Inc. of Irvine, Calif., which will build the plant, said the add-on system for ethanol plants has been quite successful in Brazil, now the world leader in producing ethanol. In Brazil, Mr. Stevens said, each add-on module has an annual capacity of 12 million gallons. Ethanol output in Brazil in 1979 was 790 million gallons, accounting for an estimated 14 percent of Brazil's automotive fuel consumption, a figure expected to rise in 1980 to 20 percent, according to Worldwatch Institute of Washington, D.C.

Construction of the Oregon ethanol plant is a major goal of Sunriver Farms management, but agricultural production and, ultimately, livestock production, will be the primary function. Agricultural operations of Sunriver Farms are expected ultimately to create 300 jobs, most of which would be year-round employment. Farm work now gives jobs to about 100 workers.

It is planned that the farming and processing operations will be essentially a closed-loop system with a high degree of self-sufficiency and stressing recycling and utilization of organic and other wastes.

Sunriver Farms grow some of the corn for use in the ethanol plant. Other farm produce now includes pinto beans, alfalfa, wheat, turnips, and asparagus. Processing of corn for the ethanol plant will provide what is called distillers dried grains -- the remains after sugars have been extracted and fermented to produce the alcohol for fuel -- which will then be used as cattle feed.

A contract has already been signed, according to Ronald L. Dodson, chairman of Sunriver Farms, for annual delivery to Mexican purchasers of 400,000 bags of pinto beans, each bag weighing 100 pounds. This contract will run between $10 million and $15 million.

Management expects other contracts for additional farm produce to be signed within the near future.

In a press conference at the state capitol, Oregon Gov. Victor Atiyeh welcomed Sunriver Farms and said the ethanol plant fits readily into Oregon's energy planning.

Rep. Al Ullman (D) of Oregon, who represents the district in which Boardman is situated, noted at the press conference that gasohol has been exempted from the 4-cent federal tax and that tax credits have been established for the blenders and users of gasohol.

In addition to tax credits and the exemption from the 4-cent-a-gallon motor fuel tax, federal incentives also include grants, loans, and loan guarantees.

Future legislation in Oregon will call for property tax and corporate income tax exemptions for alcohol fuel plants.

Federal legislation has set US goals of 920 million gallons of gasohol by 1982 and a volume equal to 10 percent of estimated domestic gasoline use by 1990 . At current rate of use -- 104.5 billion gallons a year -- this would require about 10.5 billion gallons of ethanol.

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