In the United States (US), Verbio North America Holdings Corporation, a subsidiary of Germany-headed ethanol, biodiesel, and biomethane major VERBIO Vereinigte BioEnergie AG (VERBIO) has announced the signing and closing of a purchase agreement with Mercuria Investments US, Inc. to acquire South Bend Ethanol, LLC, an operating ethanol plant located in South Bend, Indiana (IN).
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As a global leader in the renewable energy industry, this will be Verbio`s second US production facility following the successful commissioning of its Nevada, Iowa (IA) plant.
Verbio intends to subsequently expand and develop the South Bend Ethanol plant into a modern biorefinery at an estimated total investment of US$230 million.
We are excited about the opportunity to integrate the production of ethanol with renewable natural gas (RNG) in the state of Indiana. We believe this transaction provides an excellent path for Verbio to further strengthen its North American business and growth strategy. The site offers a competitive location as well as existing infrastructure and meets our requirements for access to the natural gas grid, electricity, feedstock sources, and water supply, comments Stefan Schreiber, Executive Board Member for North America of VERBIO, the Germany-headed parent company.
Advanced plant upgrade over the next three years
The integration of ethanol production with the biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) production process, unique to the Verbio brand and developed successfully at the company`s facilities in Europe over the past decade, will result in higher efficiencies and improved sustainability.
The site will be developed over the next three years incorporating Verbio’s advanced engineering and operating technology practices.
Following commissioning, the production capacity of the plant will be 85 million (US) gallons (≈ 322 million litres) of corn ethanol and 2.8 billion cubic feet (Bcf) or ≈ 79.3 million Nm3 of RNG per year.
Verbio will retain the assets of the existing ethanol plant and seek to improve yields and reduce energy consumption over the next several months. The investment will incorporate additional equipment and processes necessary to produce value-added by-products, such as liquid fertilizers.
Further, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), aiming to boost investments in climate protection and clean energy in the United States, offers provisions that will benefit the Verbio project.
All current 61 employees at South Bend Ethanol will initially be retained. The company`s goal is to increase to 69 full-time employees by the end of 2025.
To support the construction project, a significant number of additional indirect jobs will be created in the surrounding community and across the state.
Verbio is working on plans to start construction in the next several months, with commercial production of RNG for use in process industries and other end-use markets expected to begin in 2026.
The plant`s primary feedstock, approximately 28 million bushels of corn annually used for ethanol production, will continue to be procured locally and the company looks forward to working with the growers in the region.
Driving decarbonization in industry
The Verbio biorefinery concept does not only support continued opportunities for local growers, but as importantly, it drives the shift away from fossil energy by offering advanced renewable fuel products.
With the construction of anaerobic digestion (AD) tanks designed to produce RNG, Verbio will utilize the stillage resulting from ethanol production as feedstock rather than producing dried distillers’ grains with solubles (DDGS), as it is typical for other ethanol plants.
Biogas produced in the AD tanks will be upgraded to pipeline-quality RNG for injection into the gas distribution system serving the site.
Following processing, liquid fertilizers, and humus will be returned to the fields as excellent soil amendments, completing the sustainability cycle.
We see continued strong demand for renewable energy solutions, especially in North American industrial process industries. This opens up promising economic perspectives for us and supports VERBIO`s growth and internationalization strategy. Our renewable energy operations worldwide are built on our company`s twenty years plus commitment to sustainability and technological innovation. We look forward to further expanding our business within North America as well as internationally in the coming years, said Claus Sauter, Founder and CEO of the parent company VERBIO.
Verbio is one of the leading independent bioenergy manufacturers, operating facilities globally that currently produce about 3.5 Bcf (99.1 million Nm3) of RNG, 198 million gallons (≈ 750 million litres) of biodiesel, and 100 million gallons (≈ 378 million litres) of ethanol annually.
In 2021 Verbio started operations in Nevada, Iowa, at its first US-based plant that is about to commence ethanol production later this year, with 60 million gallons (≈ 227 million litres) of capacity, in addition to its large-scale RNG operations.