COLUMBUS — A year from now, the Archer Daniels Midland ethanol plant in Columbus will have a customer in its own backyard.
Prairie Catalytic, a subsidiary of California-based Greenyug, is progressing with its plan to add a commercial solvent plant that will be based on ADM’s site, according to Prairie Catalytic general manager Tim Aydt.
“We’re building a lot of the equipment,” said Aydt. “We’ll be rolling the equipment in in late 2017.”
Aydt said the timeline for the project is to break ground in late June, install equipment by late 2017 and start production in the second quarter of 2018.
The company will also start hiring in July with a goal of filling around 20 positions needed once the facility is fully staffed, according to Aydt, who noted that the pool of potential applicants with manufacturing experience is another reason Greenyug selected Columbus for the plant.
“We’re hoping to tap that knowledge base and attract them with what should be fairly comfortable positions in a good working environment," he said.
The plant will make ethyl acetate, an organic compound used in products such as artificial flavoring, varnishes and paints. Prairie Catalytic will produce the ethyl acetate using feedstock that comes from ADM's wet corn mill.
“It’s our raw material,” said Aydt.
ADM has wet and dry mills for processing corn into ethanol.
The dry mill was added in 2009. Although it’s more efficient than the wet mill, it only produces ethanol.
The wet mill, built in 1992, breaks down corn into a variety of products.
“There’s advantages to both,” said ADM plant superintendent Dan Smith. “In a wet mill you have more diversity because you’re breaking up pieces out of different parts of the corn. In the dry mill all that is ground up to make ethanol.”
ADM has also seen some minor upgrades to improve productivity. Last year the company installed new scales to get semitrailers in and out of the plant quicker.
"They used to wait in line for hours," said Smith.
Other upgrades allow the plant to closely monitor production.
"Technology has given us a lot of different tools to keep our plant running smoother and more efficiently," Smith said.
The ADM site is also advantageous to Prairie Catalytic because of its access to rail transport.
“ADM is a great partner to partner up with,” Aydt said. “They have transportation advantages that other people we could hook up with wouldn’t have.”
Typically, ethyl acetate is made from petroleum products, but Aydt sees a huge opportunity to overtake that market.
“It would be disrupting the ethyl acetate industry and other chemicals made by petroleum,” said Aydt. “It’s a huge improvement to what’s out there right now and it’s made from a renewable resource.”
“We should show big growth,” he said.
In addition to breaking ground on the plant, Aydt plans to close on a house in Columbus in June before moving his wife and two teenage daughters from Decatur, Illinois.
“It’s smaller than Decatur, but it’s got all the same amenities — mostly,” said Aydt.
Aydt and his wife are both from communities with populations around 3,000, so they’re familiar with small-town life.
“I look forward to learning more about the clubs and getting to know the people and the community,” Aydt said.