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Forum staff reports, Published March 12 2014

Mechanical failure to blame for Fergus Falls ethanol plant fire

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Investigators determined a mechanical failure caused a fire and explosion Monday afternoon at an ethanol plant here.

A hydraulic pump which controls the damper in the dryer building of the Green Plains Renewable Energy plant failed Monday afternoon, according to a statement from the Fergus Falls Fire Chief Mark Hovland released on Wednesday.

It caused higher than normal temperatures in an attached chamber where hazardous emissions are destroyed. A fire started in the chamber and smoke from the fire was drawn into the dryer building causing a smoke explosion.

The explosion tore apart the building, Hovland said earlier this week.

No one was injured in the fire or subsequent explosion.

Green Plains officials are still assessing the damages, which plant manager Anthony Hicks said are “significant,” but no dollar amount was given.

The plant, which produces corn-based ethanol, corn oil and distiller’s grains, has been in operation since 2008.