MASON CITY — What began 10 years ago with simple educational discussions has transformed into a North Iowa plant that produces nearly 120 million gallons of ethanol a year.

The idea for Golden Grain Energy, which was formally incorporated March 18, 2002, came from a series of meetings where participants talked about the ethanol industry, the production process, the future of renewable fuels and the use of dried distillers grains, said Walt Wendland, the company’s president and CEO.

“At the conclusion of those meetings we decided whether it was feasible to have a company,” he said.

Today that company has 47 employees at its Mason City plant, which is owned by farmers and investors from north-central and northeast Iowa.

Groundbreaking for the plant was in October 2003, with production beginning just 14 months later. Since that time, the plant has purchased more than 234 million bushels of corn — averaging more than 39 million bushels annually — from farmers and elevators in north-central Iowa and south-central Minnesota.

The plant grew from its original 40 million gallon-per-year production capacity to the current level with an expansion completed in June 2007. The ability to extract corn oil from ethanol production was added in March 2009.

Golden Grain is in the process of building another CO2 scrubber and fermenter, which will further increase the plant’s capacity and efficiency, according to Wendland.

He said it will “help get us a little bit more out of the corn,” which is an advantage with the price of corn on the rise.

Among the impacts Golden Grain has had on the local economy since its formation are:

• 650 million gallons of ethanol produced, the equivalent of nearly 15.5 million barrels of oil.

• $20.6 million paid in wages and benefits, with an average of $2.6 million annually.

• $1 billion in corn purchased, an average of $187 million annually.

• $560 million in local, non-corn vendor payments, an average of $62.2 million annually.

• $65.1 million distributed to members, an average of $8.1 million annually.

Golden Grain management staff and board members serve on the boards of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the national Renewable Fuels Association and American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE).

The company also has been a supporter and investor in several other ethanol-related companies in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.

One of the keys to the future of the ethanol industry is E15, a 15 percent ethanol blended fuel that has been approved for use in vehicles model years 2001 and newer.

Iowa is poised to be one of the first states to make the new fuel available, likely in the next few weeks.

Wendland said Golden Grain was one of the first 20 ethanol plants registered as a supplier for the ethanol to be used in E15.

He said E10 fuel is 10 cents a gallon cheaper than regular gasoline, and E15 should be 15 cents cheaper, according to Wendland.

“That should help bring gas prices down a little bit,” he said.

(7) comments

firebird

I'm just curious but does anyone out there know how many gallons of water? Does it take to produce one gallon of ethanol?

Bradford

Does anyone know how much blood and treasure is spent on foreign oil?

firebird

I heard it takes 2100 gallons of water. Thats a lot of water. To bad they can't use salt water.

gonefishing
gonefishing

firebird, you already claim the answer, why not just post it to begin with?? Was you hoping someone would come up with a ridiculas post like one gallon for one gallon??

I like bradford's answer a lot better!!

firebird

No gonefishing I had googled it but couldn't beleive it. I tried to use my calculator to times that times 120 million but it wouldn't go that high.

Cyclone1994

It takes about 3 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of ethanol.

rhino59
rhino59

I just wish they could figure out how to produce this stuff so it would actually have a shelf life of longer than a few days. If you put ethanol fuels in your gas engines - be prepared to get REAL good at cleaning out carburertors and needle valves - even if you put the Sta-Bil in it. Ethanol gas is junk!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.