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Verbio acquires South Bend Ethanol

Verbio intends to invest $230 million to expand the facility and develop it into a modern biorefinery.

Courtesy of Verbio
Courtesy of Verbio

Verbio North America has closed on a purchase agreement with Mercuria Investments US, Inc. to acquire South Bend Ethanol, LLC, an operating ethanol plant located in South Bend, Indiana.

This will be Verbio's second U.S. production facility following the commissioning of its Nevada, Iowa, plant. Verbio intends invest $230 million to expand South Bend Ethanol and develop it into a modern biorefinery.

"We are excited about the opportunity to integrate the production of ethanol with renewable natural gas (RNG) in the state of Indiana," said Stefan Schreiber, executive board member for North America of Verbio AG, the German-based parent company. "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."

Advanced plant upgrade over the next three years

Integration of the ethanol production with the RNG production process, unique to the Verbio brand and developed at the company's facilities in Europe over the past decade, will result in higher efficiencies and improved sustainability, said the company.

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 at 85 million gallons of corn ethanol and 2.8 billion cubic feet (Bcf) 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, aiming to boost investments in climate protection and clean energy in the U.S., offers provisions that will benefit the project, said Verbio.

All current 61 employees at the facility 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.

Company decisions drive decarbonization

With the construction of anaerobic digestion (AD) tanks designed to produce RNG, Verbio will use 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, said Claus Sauter, founder and CEO of the parent company VERBIOAG.

“We see a continued strong demand for renewable energy solutions, especially in North American industrial process industries,” said Sauter. “This opens up promising economic perspectives for us and supports Verbio's growth and internationalization strategy."

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