Green Plains Opens Enhanced Biorefinery In York County, Nebraska

Through a partnership with Shell, the Omaha-based company utilizes a processing technology to convert every part of corn kernels into co-products, including ethanol.

Green Plains, a biorefining company focused on the development and utilization of fermentation, agricultural, and biological technologies in the processing of annually renewable crops into sustainable value-added ingredients, held a grand opening for its new biofuel production facility in York, Nebraska. The facility, which is made possible through a partnership with Shell, uses advanced technology to add value to products created by corn processing. Converting every part of the kernel into higher-value co-products means the corn grown by York farmers stretches further.

“This is all about adding more value to the corn our Nebraska family farmers are so proficient at producing,” says Devin Mogler, SVP of Corporate and Investor Relations at Green Plains, based in Omaha, NE. “It’s exciting to have one of the world’s largest companies, Shell, investing right beside us here in York.”

The new biorefinery facility will be fully operational by May 2024.

biorefinery
Ribbon-cutting at Green Plains’ new biorefinery in York County, Nebraska on March 25, 2024. (Photo courtesy York County Development Corp.)

Green Plains Partnership With Shell Unlocks Value Of Corn Kernels

The new processing technology used by Green Plains will add value to the ethanol production process. As Nebraska farmers work to produce corn, this system will ensure every part of the kernel is used for the highest value markets. Mogler breaks down three ways this process will maximize value:

  • It extracts all renewable corn oil from the kernel. Currently, the ethanol industry only recovers approximately 60% of the available oil.
  • It produces cellulosic sugars left on the kernel fiber. This could be made into low-carbon second-generation ethanol if the efforts to scale production are successful.
  • It releases the protein in the remaining material. This creates Ultra High Protein feed ingredients instead of traditional distilled grains.

The low carbon-intensity ethanol created by the new Green Plains facility in York would then be potentially used as a feedstock for producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The feed ingredients are used in pet food and aquaculture, and the renewable corn oil also serves as a low-CI feedstock for renewable diesel and SAF.

“Embracing this technology and improving processing best practices will stretch the value of the corn grown in the area,” says Lisa Hurley, Executive Director of York County Development Corporation (YCDC). “York County farmers will have an even bigger impact on the global food supply, aviation, shipping, and renewable energy industries. YCDC efforts to increase housing and talent are making projects such as this possible as we have to be able to provide the workforce.”

York County residents are already seeing an enhanced economic impact because of the new Green Plains partnership with Shel. The company hired several construction workers to build the $70 million facility, creating temporary jobs in the local economy. The facility will also create 18 permanent, full-time jobs.

“[We need] electrical, chemical and mechanical engineers, process operators, technicians, and more,” says Mogler. “We have one position open now, but are otherwise staffed up — that being said we are always looking for great people.” Candidates can check the Green Plains job listings to see if there are any other openings in the future.

The capital invested in this facility will also increase the amount of tax revenue collected by York County, allowing the government to provide better services and resources to the local community.

The advancements that Green Plains and Shell make to improve corn processing will have secondary benefits for York County. Mogler explains that this investment puts York at the forefront of the biorefinery revolution – at the cutting edge of AgTech. The knowledge and expertise in the region could attract other biofuel and technology companies in the future, making York a hub for sustainable fuel development.

“Green Plains and Shell understand the value of operating in York County,” says Hurley. “As their ventures succeed, we expect other companies to take notice and decide to bring their operations to our region as well.”

Check out all the latest economic development, site selection and corporate expansion news about Nebraska.

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