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By Jeff Zent, Published November 29 2001

Ethanol plant investors sought

Backers of a plan to build a new ethanol plant in North Dakota are looking for investors.

The Dakota Renewable Fuels committee will hold meetings throughout the state in January to unveil their business plan and reach investors, said Duane Dows, chairman of the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council and the committee's chairman.

The steering committee, formed by farmers a year ago, plans to build a plant that produces at least 30 million gallons of the fuel additive a year, Dows told a small group of farmers during a meeting Wednesday at the North Dakota Agriculture Association's annual Northern Ag Expo.

The expo at the Fargodome Tuesday and Wednesday included agri-business exhibits, guest speakers and crop production workshops.

Organizers hope to raise at least $18 million to finance construction of a new ethanol plant, Dows said.

The plant's owners would use North Dakota-grown corn to make the fuel additive, he said.

Corn and other grains are used to make ethanol.

An ethanol plant that produces 30 million gallons a year would cost about $42 million to build, Dows said.

The plant would use at least 11 million bushels of corn a year -- roughly 10 percent of the state's annual corn crop, said Mike Clemens, a Wimbledon, N.D., farmer and steering committee member.

"We're excited about ethanol in North Dakota because of the market we will be creating," Clemens said.

The steering committee has hired consultants to help find the best location for a new ethanol plant and has narrowed potential sites to three, Dows said. He would not say what sites are being considered.

"We're kind of operating with one foot on the gas and the other foot on the brake," he said. "We want to do this as fast as possible, but we also want to do it right."

The plant would be the third in North Dakota. Two other plants in Walhalla and Grafton produce about 35 million gallons of ethanol a year, Clemens said.

National demand for ethanol is expected to grow primarily because another fuel additive, MTBE, has been found to contaminate groundwater supplies, he said.

Minnesota is the nation's leader in ethanol production. The state's 15 plants produce about 312 million gallons a year, Clemens said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526