Ashtabula Co. ethanol plant idea scrapped; idea reborn in Coshocton


SALEM, Ohio – Nov. 29, 2001: Ashtabula County, Ohio, will get a $150 million ethanol production facility.

The plant is expected to be up and running by late 2003.

Its 40 million-gallon capacity will use 15 million bushels of corn annually.

Fast forward. Forget you even heard about it.

Nordic Biofuels of Ann Arbor, Mich., postponed those plans indefinitely.

The whole idea is scrapped, says company spokesperson Trevor Lambert.

Further study showed the idea isn’t economically feasible in the area, he said.

No surprise? Maybe that wasn’t so surprising after all.

The disadvantage to building an ethanol plant in the eastern Corn Belt – Ohio is the eastern-most state in that category – is high-priced corn, says Marlin Clark, a grain buyer in Andover, Ohio.

“That’s why they build them in areas with cheaper corn costs” like Nebraska and Iowa, Clark said.

“The economics of buying and selling are best there. They can prove their [facility] design and move on,” he said.

Another opinion. Ashtabula County commissioner Robert Boggs says he’s heard otherwise, that his county’s plan isn’t history.

Nordic planners communicated to him that the plant was still in the works, but wouldn’t move ahead until energy rates in the area dropped, Boggs said.

The ethanol facility was partnered with a coal-powered energy production plant, Boggs said.

“People were very excited [at the 2001 announcement] and a lot of effort was made to demonstrate local interest. They’ll be disappointed if Nordic doesn’t go through with it,” he said.

Still trying. Nordic isn’t giving up on Ohio yet.

An early February 2004 announcement touted the coming of a 50 million gallon anhydrous ethanol plant to Coshocton County.

The hopeful site is south of the city of Coshocton and east of state Route 16, Trevor Lambert said.

He said that facility would use 19 million bushels of corn each year and would produce dry and wet feedstuffs like distillers grain.

But the announcement is all farmers have to bank on right now. Nordic Biofuels still has more work to do.

“At this point we’re just digging our heels in and getting started,” he said.

Statewide initiative. And indeed, Ohio is just getting started in the biofuels revolution.

Dwayne Siekman, executive director of the Ohio Corn Growers Association, says his group is aware of five planned facilities in the state.

Plants are in the works at North West Ethanol, Defiance County; Greater Ohio Ethanol, Allen County; West Central Ohio Ethanol, Preble, Darke and Mercer counties; Farmers Ethanol LLC in Harrison, Perry and Washington counties, and the Coshocton County location.

Siekman said all but the Coshocton facilities are gathering equity, but no plans are finalized.

Favorable. “We’re pretty excited to see these ventures moving forward. A study we did three years ago says the opportunity is here,” Siekman said.

And now, with lesser limitations on state assistance and corn prices, Ohio is at less of a disadvantage, he said.

Yields. Siekman also noted Ohio’s 2003 crop year corn yield was 450-460 million bushels.

Each of the five proposed facilities would demand around 20 million bushels each year, so the state’s growing capacity is there, he said.

One developer’s report revealed the Ohio corn crop could handle up to 12 ethanol plants, Siekman said, but no one’s getting ahead of themselves.

“We’re very optimistic considering we don’t even have one [plant] right now,” Siekman said.

Not here. As for the Ohio and Pennsylvania sites, Marlin Clark says there’s still no obvious economic advantage to build here.

“There has to be a real good reason to do it, other than some growers think it would be a good idea to have one here,” he said.

“Wanting one here isn’t a viable reason.”

Holding out. Clark isn’t totally gloom and doom about the possibility of seeing an ethanol production facility close to home.

In fact, he supports the whole idea.

“In the next 25 years, we’re going to find a way to produce and use a lot of [ethanol].

“The need for fuel is great and it’s a national security issue. The process has become more energy efficient.

“But getting from here to there is the problem. Startup costs are just too great,” he said.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at


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