Becky Skillman was excited. You could tell it in her voice as state Republican leader Mike McDaniel interviewed her on WIBC radio out of Indianapolis last week. And why not? The Lt. Governor was on her way to another ceremony celebrating the start of another Indiana ethanol plant. This time the home for the plant is near Portland in Jay County.
"Two years ago we only had one plant, New Energy in South Bend," she says. "Now we have 10 in some stage of either construction or planning. We also have three soy biodiesel plants planned."
Two of those soy biodiesel plants that will turn soybean oil into B100 pure soy biodiesel for blending are expected to open this summer. Both Integrity Biofuels, Mossistown, and Evergreen Renewables, Ft. Wayne, indicated recently to Indiana Prairie Farmer that they intend to be into commercial production yet this summer. Both have produced soy biodiesel in test quantities. Both are relatively small plants.
But Shorty Whittington, co-owner of Integrity Biofuels with son, John, has already hinted that they may expand if market conditions prove profitable once they're in operation. He estimates they could easily move from their initial target of 10 million gallons of B100 per year to 30 million gallons at their present facility.
Technically, New Energy was not the only plant making ethanol in Indiana two years ago. GPC Corporation at Washington, Ind., produces ethanol, but only a small percentage of it is used as ethanol for fuel.
And there are actually more than 10 plants under consideration. As many as 18 groups, including those with plants already under construction, have made moves toward building an ethanol plant. However, at least one has already refocused on hooking up with another partner because it could not raise enough funding on its own.
As Skillman made her comments, she rode along in an E85 flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe, recently loaned to the State of Indiana for her use for this year by General Motors. It replaced a Tahoe she rode in last year.
"What's exciting," Skillman says, "is that there are so many more places to purchase E85 fuel in Indiana now than a year ago. Two years ago there were none. Now there are about 30 stations statewide offering E-85 with a host more in the planning stages."