I've read several articles that ADM is considering selling "two of the country’s largest ethanol plants in Cedar Rapids and Columbus, Neb., [which were built] six years ago. (Gazette)" They are dry-mill plants, which produce ethanol more efficiently than wet-mill plants. But they are less flexible. Wet mills can be converted to other corn products such as corn syrup. ADM has another dry-mill plant in Peoria, IL. "The three dry-mill ethanol plants, some of the largest in the country, represent just under half of ADM’s 1.8-billion-gallon-per-year U.S. ethanol capacity." The plants are still making money, but they are not as profitable as they used to be.
I can't find the reference again, but I remember reading that ADM paid $6-billion to build the two new dry mill plants. And they are now worth a half-billion (Gazette). But even that is probably too much for another company to afford. "The most likely investors may be oil refiners, which have moved into the renewable fuels business in recent years, positioning themselves around policy, sources said. Oil companies such as Valero and Flint Hills Resources, owned by the Koch brothers, have become industry heavyweights through acquisitions in recent years." (Gazette) I wonder what the total U.S. ethanol capacity is. And how heavily it is still supported by federal tax money.
At least ethanol production does not cut into our food supply. It just reduces the amount of corn that spoils. Our global economy does not feed the poor in other countries.
The end of the Gazette article was particularly informative:
These are ADM’s corn mills, with capacities estimates from the Renewable Fuels Association.Update: export of ethanol to Brazil has increased becaues Brazil is using its sugar cane crop to make more sugar instead of ethanol. But it does sound like ADM still wants to dump its dry mills.
• Cedar Rapids: ADM began producing ethanol at a wet mill in Cedar Rapids in 1981. In 2010, the company built a dry mill nearby and can now churn out 420 million gallons at the facilities annually.
• Clinton: ADM scooped up the wet mill in Clinton in 1982, and has expanded its capacity since to nearly 240 million gallons annually.
• Decatur, Ill.: ADM began production at its Decatur wet mill in 1978, making it among the first major entrants in the fledgling biofuels business. The site now can produce about 400 million gallons of ethanol annually.
• Peoria, Ill.: ADM scooped up the Peoria dry mill, estimated at about 200 million gallons of capacity, in 1980.
• Walhalla, N.D.: The company bought the dry mill in Walhalla in 1991. It closed the 45-million-gallon-per-year plant in 2012.
• Marshall, Minn.: ADM acquired Minnesota Corn Processors LLC in 2002, bringing into the fold a 40-million-gallon wet mill in Marshall. The plant now can produce 45 million gallons per year.
• Columbus, Neb.: A Columbus wet mill was the second plant ADM scooped up with its acquisition of Minnesota Corn Processors in 2002. The plant can pump out 100 million gallons of ethanol each year. ADM opened a dry mill nearby in 2010, with a capacity of about 300 million gallons.