Omaha grain trader the Scoular Co. said Thursday it has reopened an ethanol plant in Kansas that had been idle for about five years.
The plant in Pratt, Kan., is about 350 miles south of Omaha, and it will buy grain to produce the ethanol from within about a 75-mile area, said Pratt Energy, a partnership between Scoular and Pratt Biofuel Investors.
Scoular purchased the 55-million gallon plant and adjoining 1.8-million bushel grain facility in 2011. The employee-owned company employs about 700 people and has about $6 billion a year in sales from trading and transporting grain.
“Most of the Pratt plant’s ethanol will ship to markets in Wichita (Kan.), Oklahoma City and Tulsa (Okla.),” said Scott Anderson, Pratt Energy’s ethanol marketing manager. “We expect to use about 20 million bushels of feedstock per year, with most of it being sourced by truck within 50 to 75 miles of Pratt.”
The Pratt plant can also take supplies via train, Anderson said; it is on the line of Omaha-based rail operator Union Pacific Corp.
Ethanol prices have been falling, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicting a record harvest for corn, the primary ingredient used to make the fuel. Last week, the USDA estimated that farmers had harvested 39 percent of their corn. This week, a government report showed ethanol production rose 3.2 percent to 897,000 barrels a day last week.
Pratt Energy is operating the plant and marketing the ethanol, while Scoular is procuring the plant’s grain and selling the “distillers grains,” or ethanol-production leftovers, used by ranchers as cattle feed.
Scoular said the plant was acquired after it was shut by previous owners. After searching for an operating partner, Scoular sold a stake in the operation to Pratt Biofuel, which the Omaha company said has experience renovating and operating ethanol plants.
About 60 people work at the corporate headquarters of Scoular at 2027 Dodge St. in Omaha. The rest are at sales offices, grain-handling centers and other locations throughout North America.