Carbon Green to reduce carbon footprint

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Posted May 14, 2009, at 10:08 a.m. CST

The future owners of the former VeraSun Energy Corp. 40 MMgy ethanol plant in Woodbury, Mich., plan to increase energy efficiency at the plant and to replace the fossil fuels used to power the plant with renewable energy sources.

Carbon Green Bioenergy, a partnership between Chicago-based Carbon Green LLC and Energetix LLC, plans to leverage Carbon Green's experience in carbon credit management, as well as the experience of the new Carbon Green Bioenergy leadership, to improve the carbon footprint at the plant. Carbon Green specializes in working with renewable fuel producers to lower their carbon footprints and to generate carbon credits. Energetix is headed by Mitch Miller, who will manage the facility as CEO for Carbon Green Bioenergy. Previously, Miller held leadership roles at Corn Plus LLLP in Winnebago, Minn., Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company LLLP in Benson, Minn., and Central Indiana Ethanol LLC in Marion, Ind., plants that include technologies or improvements that help to reduce the plants' carbon footprints. Miller is joined by Chief Operating Officer Jason Jerke, a chemical engineer with ethanol plant design and management experience and a veteran of the U.S. DOE Biomass Program.

"The stuff that we've been working on during the past two and a half years and our understanding of where we think the carbon markets are going will impact how this plant operates going forward," said Jim Murphy, president of Carbon Green. "Like a lot of ethanol producers, the one thing that we can control is the amount of fossil fuels that we use at the plant. We're trying to identify alternative sources of energy. We've done a lot of that and we anticipate we're going to do a lot of it with this plant."

Murphy said the Woodbury plant is attractive to Carbon Green because of its location in the state of Michigan. "We're excited about its proximity to Michigan State University (in nearby East Lansing)," he said. "We hope to develop a very strong relationship with that university." Murphy said he is also pleased with the supportive political environment in Michigan. "We're looking forward to the opportunity for working with Michigan officials," he said, "all the way up to the governor, who has been extremely supportive of renewable energy and in trying to help projects like ours through the Michigan Economic Development Corp."

Murphy said the Woodbury plant was also attractive because of its smaller size and for now, Carbon Green will be satisfied with owning one, smaller ethanol plant. "We're perfectly satisfied with making this facility run as efficiently and effectively as possible," he said, "and for the foreseeable future, this is our appetite for ethanol production."

Murphy said he is pleased with the experience that Miller and Jerke will bring to the operation. "These are the guys who are going to operate the plant and make it one of the most efficient in the business," he said. "We want to make corn ethanol greener and I think that's something that a lot of ethanol producers today are focused on."

AgStar Financial Services of Mankato, Minn., acquired the Woodbury plant during a bankruptcy auction in March. AgStar will continue to lead a group of lenders in financing Carbon Green Bioenergy. AgStar announced May 6 that an agreement had been signed and the sale to Carbon Green Bioenergy was expected to close within 30 days from that date.