After being shut down and idle for more than five years, the ethanol plant in Pratt is back in business under the ownership of Pratt Energy, a partnership between The Scoular Company and Pratt Biofuel Investors (PBI). Pratt Energy is operating the plant and marketing the ethanol, while Scoular is procuring the plant's feedstock and marketing wet and dry distillers grains.
Scoular purchased the 55-million gallon plant and adjoining 1.8-million bushel grain facility in 2011 from Gateway Plant, LLC. In December 2012, after an extensive search for a qualified operating partner, Scoular sold a portion of its interest in Pratt Energy to PBI, which has related ownership to Calgren Renewable Fuels.
Lyle Schlyer is president of both Pratt Energy and Calgren Renewable Fuels. Schlyer provides general management and production expertise for the Pratt plant and a nearly identical plant in Pixley, Calif. Calgren successfully renovated the Pixley plant in 2009 and continues to operate it today.
PBI took the lead in renovating the Pratt plant. Renovations were wrapped up by late summer 2013, and the plant began grinding corn and producing ethanol in early September. Jerry Schroeder, formerly with Calgren and now with Pratt Energy, managed the renovations and is managing the plant's operations.
"Most of the Pratt plant's ethanol will ship to markets in Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa," said Scott Anderson, Pratt Energy's ethanol marketing manager who offices at the Pratt plant. "We expect to use about 20 million bushels of feedstock per year with most of it being sourced by truck within 50-75 miles of Pratt, although we can source grain in unit trains if needed."
The facility is located on the Union Pacific Railroad and can ship or receive 100-car trains of grain as well as load out the same size trains of dried distiller grains or ethanol. Anderson said corn will be the primary feedstock used by the plant and cites that it is also capable of processing sorghum.
"Right now it's about a 70-30 split, corn to sorghum," Anderson said. "We'll adjust that ratio as needed, depending on planting trends and crop availability."
Even before the Pratt plant came online last month, Scoular was buying grain from Pratt area farmers and local elevators.
"We have been and are continuing to buy grain for our grain-handling operation at Pratt, and now, we are also buying all of the grain for the ethanol plant," said TJ Mandl, Scoular's local manager who oversees the company's Pratt business. "While we're still relatively new to Pratt, we've been in the grain business for a long time — more than 120 years. We're committed to providing a competitive, local market for the long haul."
In addition to buying corn and sorghum, Scoular is marketing Pratt Energy's wet and dry distillers grains, supplying small and large cattle feeders as well as feed mills.
In addition to benefiting area farmers, grain elevators, and livestock feeders, Pratt Energy's Anderson says the plant is further contributing to the local economy through employment and increasing opportunities for commerce in Pratt.
"The plant's renovation work was done primarily with local subcontractors and ongoing operations will result in 35 permanent new jobs," Anderson said. "Additionally, the plant is generating activity that will bring commerce to the area. There will be 50-some trucks of grain per day coming into the plant and 20 loads of ethanol and 45 loads of distillers grains going out."