Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane company plans $122 million ethanol plant

Pacific Rim Ethanol hopes to start work on facility in Moses Lake by June

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A Spokane-based company called Pacific Rim Ethanol LLC hopes to start building a $122 million ethanol plant at Moses Lake, Wash., this year, says Douglas MacKenzie, the companys president and chief executive officer.

The plant essentially will be a giant distillery that will ferment wheat and barley to produce the gas additive ethanol, as well as alcohol for spirits and industrial uses, and gluten, a grain protein added to bread, MacKenzie says. The production process also will create carbon dioxide, which can be used to carbonate beverages, and waste grain that can be used as an ingredient in cattle feed, he says.

Work on the plant could start by June, if Pacific Rim Ethanol is able to secure financing and finalize agreements with suppliers and users of the end products, MacKenzie says. He says he is working with several banks on a financing package, and Pacific Rim is seeking regulatory approval to hold a private stock offering. Agreements with grain and energy suppliers, and with partners who would be involved with the sale and use of the ethanol, gluten, and waste grain, also are in the works now, he says, but he declines to discuss details.

Moses Lake was chosen as the site for the plant because its in the middle of a vast grain-producing region that can supply the plant with wheat and barley, and its centrally located between the potential ethanol markets of Seattle, Spokane, and Portland, metropolitan areas that require an oxygenating additive, such as ethanol, to be added to gasoline to cut pollution, MacKenzie says. Moses Lakes proximity to dairy and beef cattle operations will make it easy to reach markets for animal feed, and its inexpensive natural gas and electricity, which will power the plant, also were benefits, he says.

There are a lot of reasons it makes sense, MacKenzie says of the Moses Lake location.

MacKenzie says the effort to develop the plant was started about two years ago by Ritzville Warehouse, a farm cooperative in Ritzville, Wash., and Great Plains Ingredients, of Kalispell, Mont., and they formed the limited-liability company late last year. In addition to its Spokane office, the company also has a small office in Ritzville, he says.

In Moses Lake, Terry Brewer, executive director of Grant County Economic Development Council, says he has been working with the venture that is now Pacific Rim for about two years, helping to clear the way for the plant there.

Were feeling very positive now, he says. This is a good project. Its good for the entire region and all its growers.

MacKenzie says current low grain prices and high gasoline costs have boosted Pacific Rims efforts. Recent news reports about groundwater contamination by another oxygenating additive, known as methyl tertiary butyl ether or MTBE, also have increased interest in safer gas additives, which could help the company, he says.

400-500 jobs

The plant is being designed by the Calgary office of Fluor Daniel Canada Inc. and a Finnish firm called JPI, MacKenzie says. It will take about 18 months to build, he says.

Once in operation, it is expected to create between 400 and 500 jobs, although not all of those will be at the plant, he says. A large number of those jobs will be with contractors, such as trucking firms, security companies, and janitorial services, that will serve the plant, he says.

The plant will have the capacity to produce 40 million gallons of ethanol annually, and will buy about $50 million worth of barley and wheat each year, MacKenzie says. It will create a large demand for two agricultural products here, he says, and should boost prices for those commodities.

Within two years after opening the Moses Lake plant, Pacific Rim hopes to double the size of that plant, MacKenzie says. Within six years from now, the company wants to have two 80 million-gallon capacity plants in operation, he says. He declines to disclose the potential location of the second plant.

The Grant County EDCs Brewer says that during the development of an urban growth boundary and comprehensive plans for Moses Lake and Grant County, the Grant County EDC helped make sure the 45 acres of land east of the Moses Lake city limits where Pacific Rim hopes to build its plant was included in the urban growth boundary. The city of Moses Lake and the Grant County EDC recently applied for a state grant to help pay for the about two-mile extension of sewer and water lines to serve the plant site, Brewer says.

The EDC also will facilitate a meeting with the Washington state Department of Ecology on the project and its potential effects on air and water quality in March, he says. It also will help coordinate applications to Grant County for building and environmental permits, he says.

  • Anita Burke

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