Source: The York News-Times
YORK-A 30-year veteran of the ethanol and soybean processing industry, innovator Russ Zeeck, gazing upon a seemingly endless sea of com stubble one day, had a vision in which he saw much more than stalks, leaves, and cobs left to rot.
What Zeeck thought must surely be possible then has since proven to be true. The result is the $30 million Pellet Technology USA plant that for months area residents have watched emerge from the earth just north of 25th Street along Division Avenue.
The plant completed final run-through testing at the end of the year and expects commercial production to begin very early in 2017.
When the York facility comes on-line it will join the company’s existing research and development center at Gretna.
Zeeck’s concentration upon ethanol turned in an entirely new direction, related Joe Luna, manager of business strategy, the day he looked closely at a field of corn stubble and began to ponder the possibilities.
“He invented the process,” said Luna of Zeeck., by which com stalks, extremely difficult to work with and not unlike bamboo in their rigidity, are reduced to a material that is “like the inside of a pillow.”
The York plant’s final product supports both the agriculture and energy industries while also supplying feed using raw materials and processes that are both local.
At the bottom line is a plant capable of producing 250,000 tons of animal feed by a staff of 39 new employees and growing (the facility was designed with expansion in mind from the outset).
The injection of dollars into the York-area economy during the three month spike of construction was much higher, of course, than will be the case when the plant settles into ongoing production over years of time.
In those months some 300 workers came and went during the various construction stages, a reality that added up to 300 local hotel rooms, hundreds upon hundreds of meals purchased and more.
Luna said if one queried Google Earth, “Where is the most irrigated com on flat ground on the planet the arrow “would point right here.”
High quality corn and top yields are what Pellet Technology USA must have to assure its own product maintains rigid standards for quality, consistency, traceability, sustainability and value.
“We look at it as the next generation of feed,” Luna explained. “Our specialty is taking fiber and adding value to it.”
The feed pellet industry has many bridges to ethanol, Luna said.
“Ethanol takes stuff apart. We’re putting it back together.”
Corn stover, he said, “Is a big problem.” for farmers. That problem is being reversed into an asset by the fewer than 100 area farmers who gained income of $45 to $150 per acre by selling more than 100,000 tons of stover to the plant in its first year.
Income per acre for growers varies based upon a number of factors that include yield and whether the farmer or the company gathers and bales the stover.
Three York-area landowners earned a premium last season by harvesting their own fields.
“This year,” said company CEO Randy Ives, “was pretty good for a kick-off year.”
The company produces three different formulations depending upon the nutrients it adds during processing.
The first is called Forage EQ ™ which is a consistently sized, 3/8 inch stover only pellet with no added ingredients to be used strictly for its effective fiber benefits.
The second, marketed as PowerFeedPellets ™ , adds precisely formulated co-products, obtained from ethanol plants as one source, to the processed stover base material. Power Pellets are further refined into feed that best serves animals as they advance from one life stage to another.
The third, PowerCubes ™, specifically supplements the diet of cows and calves on pasture grass.
Note: The industry-leading Pellet Technology USA plant in northwest York will be in production mode on or about the first of the year The $30 million facility’s 39 employees manufacture corn stover (stalks, leaves, and cobs left in fields after harvest) and ethanol co products into three different types of high -grade livestock feed pellets. The patented process adds value to what is otherwise a harvest leftover product and also adds income to farmers’ bottom line.