CEO of Golden Grain Energy, LLC
“In September 2020, Golden Grain Energy started construction on a new grain storage and receiving system. This system will increase GGE’s grain storage from approximately 1.375 million bushels to almost 3.5 million bushels. In addition, GGE will increase its receiving capacity from 40,000 bushels per hour to 65,000 bushels per hour. The centerpiece of the storage system is a 2.2 million bushel storage bin supplied by Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield, Iowa. The new storage bin is 165’ in diameter and is the largest steel storage bin in the world.”
Golden Grain Energy (GGE) is a fully operational ethanol production facility. Owned by more than 900 members, GGE produces approximately 130 million gallons of ethanol and co-products a year.
GGE draws attention as a company that has continuously expanded since the day it started production in 2004. Based in Mason City, Iowa, the facility continues to optimize production and a world record will be broken in the company's latest expansion.
In September 2020, Golden Grain started construction on a new grain storage and receiving system. Sukup Manufacturing, the world’s largest family-owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, grain drying and handling equipment, and steel buildings, has designed and manufactured the world’s largest free span grain bin, with a diameter of 165 feet for GGE. Ground was broken for the new bin on September 14, 2020, at the plant.
Chad Kuhlers, Golden Grain CEO, told us the details of this new system and shared his view on the future of the ethanol industry.
First of all, could you please provide us with some brief background information on your company and its activities? What kind of role and place does Golden Grain Energy has in the US in its operating industry? Could you tell us how your company has come to its current position?
The Company began in December 2001 when the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors appropriated money for an ethanol plant feasibility study. In March 2002, Golden Grain Energy, LLC was formed and the company charter was signed. Forty farmers and businessmen from nine counties in Northeast Iowa raised $460,000 of seed money needed to fund the proposal and front-end engineering for the plant.
In June 2002, the company signed a letter of intent with ICM/Fagen for the plant design and construction. After a rigorous selection process, in September 2002, Mason City, Iowa was chosen as the preferred location for the plant. In May of 2003, the sale of company shares commenced and ended in January 2004 after approximately 60 membership meetings. During the membership drive, 735 investors contributed approximately $27 million in equity. Construction for the plant in Mason City began on October 10, 2003, and the facility began production on December 13, 2004. We began as a 40-million-gallon-per-year facility, and by 2005, we were producing approximately 60 million gallons/year of ethanol from approximately 18 million bushels of corn.
On November 15, 2005 Golden Grain members ratified to expand the facility adding another 40 million gallons/year nameplate capacity for a total nameplate of 80 million gallons/year. Construction began in April 2006 with production online in June 2007. In February 2009, we installed a corn oil extraction system to allow us to extract corn oil from the process.
Over the years we added additional equipment including additional fermentation tanks, grain storage, and cooling towers to allow the plant to optimize our production prospects.
The facility continues to optimize production and strives to produce high quality products each and every day. In February 2015, we celebrated production of our 1,000,000,000th gallon of ethanol. Golden Grain is the first independent ethanol producer in Iowa to achieve this milestone.
In August 2017, we started optimizing and expanding the facility to add an additional 30 million gallons. We are permitted to produce up to 150 million gallons/year of ethanol, and are actually producing approximately 120 million gallons/year of ethanol with more than 40 million bushels/year of corn. In addition, we are producing approximately 300,000 tons/year of our Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) and over 30 million pounds/year of corn oil.
Can you give us some information about your production capacity and facility?
We have permits in place to produce 150,000,000 GPY of ethanol and co-products. We are currently producing approximately 130,000,000 GPY of ethanol and co-products.
On September 14, 2020, you celebrated a ground-breaking with Sukup Manufacturing Co. for the world’s largest free span grain bin. Can you give us some information about this new system? Storage capacity, dimensions, etc. What advantages will this system provide for your company?
Ground was broken for the world’s largest free span grain bin on September 14, 2020, at Golden Grain Energy’s ethanol production plant in Mason City, Iowa.
In September 2020, Golden Grain Energy started construction on a new grain storage and receiving system. This system will increase GGE’s grain storage from approximately 1.375 million bushels to almost 3.5 million bushels. In addition, GGE will increase its receiving capacity from 40,000 bushels per hour to 65,000 bushels per hour. The centerpiece of the storage system is a 2.2 million bushel storage bin supplied by Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield, Iowa. The new storage bin is 165’ in diameter and is the largest steel storage bin in the world. The construction on the project is expected to be complete in May/June 2021 and will increase GGE’s storage from about 10 days of storage to approximately 30 days of storage.
The increase in storage was approved after completing a rigorous grain origination study using CMC from Albert Lea, MN. This study identified an opportunity increase the amount of grain storage on location and to improve our grain handling capabilities to increase our level of service with our customers. The project was engineered by KFI Engineers (St. Paul, MN) and project management will be provided by McGough Construction (St. Paul, MN).
Dimensions are as follows: 165 feet in diameter 30 rings tall with 44" rings. 110 feet to the eave 155' 7" tall to the peak.
When we look at the history of Golden Grain Energy, we see a constant expansion. Will the expansion continue? Could you tell us about your future expansion plans?
We continue to optimize and expand the facility. We are looking at adding additional process changes to improve the efficiency, produce more value added co-products, or lower our production costs or energy needed to operate the facility. We evaluate each change based on its return on investment and its internal rate of return to prioritize which project we need to work on.
The spread of the Covid-19 has negatively affected the world economy, including the ethanol industry. Do you have any concerns about further slowdown in biofuel consumption? What does the future look like for the ethanol industry?
The COVID19 pandemic had been very detrimental to the biofuels industry. The entire industry is operating production rate that is lower than it was pre-pandemic. We can not shutdown the entire economy again. We must protect our highest risk individuals and continue to operate our economy. The industry will continue to evolve to support the needs economy. Some plants will opt to produce higher purity alcohol to support the cleaning/disinfectant markets.