Biofuels producer to build $160M plant in Shelbyville

Biofuels producer Poet LLC plans to spend $160 million to build a biofuels facility in Shelbyville that will take advantage of President Donald Trump’s directive to the EPA to allow year-round sales of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Poet made the announcement Friday to coincide with Trump’s planned visit to Indianapolis on Saturday to give a speech during the annual FFA convention. In his appearance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Trump is expected to talk about the administration’s effort to help farmers by being more ethanol-friendly.

Poet said it received final permit approval this week for the Shelbyville plant. The facility is expected to produce 80 million gallons of biofuels a year after it opens in spring 2020.

The facility, called Poet Biorefining-Shelbyville, will be the 28th starch biofuel plant in the company’s network, and the fifth in Indiana.

The plant is expected to have 45 full-time employees and account for $110 million in annual corn purchases, or 23 million bushels, from farmers in the area, primarily within a 30-mile radius.

Poet said it plans to start hiring for workers in spring 2019. The plant is expected to create 275 temporary jobs during construction.

“This is the right project in the right location at the right time,” Poet CEO Jeff Broin said in written remarks. “Farmers desperately need the income boost from this new market for grain, and President Trump’s recent announcement of year-round E15 sales has the biofuels industry poised for new growth and prosperity. Shelbyville is leading the way for future production to meet new E15 demand.”

Shelbyville officials are working with Poet officials on land acquisition and infrastructure improvements. The company is considering tax incentives offered by the city.

The site, at County Road 300 North and Tom Hession Drive, is west of Indiana Grand Racing & Casino and about a mile southwest of Interstate 74. Shelbyville is annexing the location.

“Poet’s project provides jobs right here in Shelby County, but its indirect effects will extent well beyond that,” Brian Asher, executive director of Shelby County Development Corp., said in written remarks. “This boosts income for farmers, expands the tax base and circulates new dollars across the state economy.”

Poet has existing Indiana plants in Alexandria, Cloverdale, North Manchester and Portland.

The EPA's new rule would allow year-round sales of gasoline blends with up to 15 percent ethanol. Gasoline typically contains 10 percent ethanol.

The EPA currently bans the high-ethanol blend, called E15, during the summer because of concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days, a claim ethanol industry advocates say is unfounded.

Year-round sales are expected to give a boost to an industry that was suffering from record stockpiles of ethanol less than two years ago. The glut, combined with low oil prices, dragged prices down to the point where producers, facing rising feedstock costs, had to slow production.

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