Money troubles vex ethanol operation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Money troubles vex ethanol operation

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  It's hasn't been the smoothest ride for Georgia's only corn-based ethanol plant in Mitchell County.

In their recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, First United Ethanol claims to have limited liquidity and has nearly exhausted the funds available under its debt facilities. If things don't change they could face bankruptcy.

Monday the company said they've got enough cash to operate for the next 12 months and with a better crush margin in the last two months, they're hopeful things will turn around.

Truck loads of corn are still pouring into First United Ethanol LLC's Mitchell County plant. They're pumping out about between 278,000 and 300,000 gallons of ethanol a day, but the first nine months haven't been easy.

"As the economy has gone off a cliff, the ethanol industry followed right along with it," said Murray Campbell, FUEL Chief Executive Officer.

The high price of corn,  80% of the company's costs, have meant a crush margin that's crushing the company.

"You take the price of corn and you divide that by how many gallons of ethanol you produce out of it and then you subtract it from the price of ethanol," said Murray.

Leaving the company with a long term debt of $105 million. Recently the company's been able to buy more local product helping cut transportation costs and prices have adjusted making for a better bottom line.

"We have worked very closely with our banks and they have helped us get through some rough times and right now we feel like we're doing a lot better than we were then," said Murray.

They're gearing up to sell more of their distillers grain to local farmers this fall and winter, pure profit, and claim their price is helping to keep the price of gasoline down.

"Right now ethanol prices are less than gasoline prices so they're helping keep a lid on gasoline prices as local distributors blend ten percent into the gasoline that we have being bought across southwest Georgia," said Murray.

Right now the plant is operating at 100% and continues to serve distributors from Montgomery, Alabama, to Macon, to Jacksonville and Pensacola Florida and in between.

They hope their market will grow with a decision from the EPA in December that could expand the percentage of ethanol you put in your tank.

The EPA is expected to decide in December if they'll up the percentage of ethanol that's blended with gasoline to fill your tank. Right now it's an E-10 blend, but it could be upped to a E-15 blend, expanding the market for ethanol producers.

        • Here are past stories WALB produced on this plant and ethanol in general-

FUEL's ethanol plant to begin production

South GA ethanol plant starts operation

Governor Perdue says bio energy will help economy

Ethanol plant workers to get tech training

Corn prices boost costs of other items

Camilla ethanol plant nears completion

South Georgians attend Bio-fuels 101

Ethanol fuel pumps coming to South Georgia

Turner ethanol plant not welcomed by all

Clean Cities pushes alternative fuels for South Georgia

Ethanol plant planned for south Georgia

South Georgia gas stations still not ready for Ethanol

Ethanol plant construction progresses

2007 Farm Bill could help South Georgia produce bio fuel

Does corn demand affect food prices?

South Georgia farmers plant corn in record numbers

Georgia farmers may turn to corn for ethanol

Ethanol plant would diversify oil supply


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