100-acre soybean crush and biodiesel facility in the works on Crookston's south end

    Valley Technology Park’s conference room was packed with community stakeholders and local leaders all eager to hear from Epitome Energy’s Dennis Egan Tuesday who announced that, if all goes well, there would be “shovels in the ground” to kickoff construction in the spring of 2021 for the proposed 100-acre soybean crush and biodiesel facility on Crookston’s south end.

    Egan says they’ll look to build the large soybean crush area first while simultaneously putting the small crush area in once they get the site set. Once the crush plants are in operation, they’ll build the biodiesel side. Site benefits include acreage, road access, and railroad access, which got some help after they received a $450,000 grant in January from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for new rail infrastructure.

    The full project build-out will be approximately 18 months, Egan added. He also mentioned the first 30 million gallons of soybean oil from the proposed crush facility already have individuals ready to purchase.

    A member of Egan’s “team”, Mike Noble, who was named the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and most recently worked on a world energy project in South Carolina, will move his family to Crookston through construction and get the operation going, Egan told Tuesday’s crowd. They’ve also partnered with Christianson & Associates (CPAs and Consultants) of Willmar, Minnesota, who have worked with 120 ethanol plants and 30-40 biodiesel plants.

    So, what’s the cost of the project? The direct output associated with the plant construction is $106.7 million with 590 people employed directly in the construction process. They will be paid $35.1 million. An estimated $150 million will take the project from the feasibility study to operation of the first year.

    Egan’s goal is to raise part of the seed money by the end of the second or into the third quarter of 2019.

    Egan, who said the project started five years ago with the first feasibility study, took questions from Tuesday’s audience and United Way of Crookston’s Executive Director Lori Wagner asked if local farmers should be advocating for the project. Egan quickly replied with a “Yes.”

    “We would love to come and sit down with 1, 2, 5, 10, 15 growers and farmers, and get into specifics of how this will look,” Egan answered. “We’re at the capital talking about this project, Deb Kiel (District 1B State Representative) and Mark Johnson (District 1 State Senator) will carry some legislation for us, and we’ll request some state dollars and talk about site development.”

    Egan stated later that Crookston was quickly identified as a potential site after meeting with individuals like Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority’s Craig Hoiseth and the CHEDA board and employees.

    “It’s no secret there’s a blending facility being built in Fargo and we’ve resisted going to North Dakota,” continued Egan. “Projects like this stay in Minnesota.”