Delegates from ethanol conference visit MME plant

Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Mid-Missouri Energy General Manager Billy Gwaltney speaks with the first of several groups that visited the Malta Bend ethanol plant last Friday as part of an international conference held in Kansas City.

This past Friday, the Mid-Missouri Energy ethanol plant in Malta Bend resembled a small facsimile of a United Nations meeting.

Maybe there weren't as many different nationalities present as there are at a U.N. meeting, but the ethanol plant played host to a congregation of participants from nearly every state in the U.S. and a few foreign countries as well as being part of an international ethanol tour in conjunction with a meeting being held in Kansas City.

Ryland Utlaut, chairman of the MME Board of Directors, explained how the Malta Bend plant was selected for a visit.

"There's been a conference going on in Kansas City, kind of a workshop, where all of the ethanol leaders and project developers that are thinking about building plants have been meeting. And at the end of that session they had the opportunity to tour two different plants," Utlaut stated. "our plant here in Malta Bend and the other one is a plant that started operating about10 days ago south of Kansas City in Garnet, Kan."

Utlaut said the visit to the Malta Bend plant is a source of pride for MME board members and workers.

Mid-Missouri Energy officials had hard hats lined up for hundreds of visitors who toured the facility last Friday as part of an international conference on the subject of ethanol.

"We have some of the top ethanol people in the world here today that have come to see our plant," he said. "It is so gratifying to hear people come up and say, 'My goodness, what a wonderful looking facility.' We're really pleased and we're very proud to have people come and take a look at our plant."

Utaut said the group's members ranged from those looking to enter the ethanol industry to those who refine the ethanol-making process.

"We've got all different kinds of people here. There are people here that are just like we were a couple of years ago," Utlaut said. "People that are looking at plants but haven't really been involved in one. Then we've got the people in the other end. The technicians, the scientists and inventors ... those that are constantly improving the ethanol process."

Utlaut also explained that the MME management team, led by General Manager Billy Gwaltney, who conducted several tours of the MME plant for the visitors, has done an outstanding job since the plant's opening earlier this year.

"The team that has been assembled here has just been outstanding. Billy [Gwaltney] and his team of chief managers have just been terrific," Utlaut said.

One visitor, Ed Primrose, chairman of the board for an upstate New York business, Empire Biofuels, explained that he wanted to see firsthand how a quality ethanol plant operated.

"We are in the process of putting a 50-million-gallon plant in the Finger Lakes region in Seneca Falls, N.Y.," Primrose said. "We just want to get a better feel for the mechanics of the plant and how things work and what we should be doing and what we shouldn't be doing."

Philip Kohl of Clean Burn Fuels LLC. in Chapel Hill, N.C., also is in the process of beginning an ethanol plant which, like Primrose, is what bought him to the Malta Bend plant.

"We're a start-up company trying to build an ethanol plant in North Carolina so we're out here to learn," Kohl said. "We're trying to see how an existing plant does things and hopefully get some ideas that can help us."

As Utlaut succinctly put it, "I hope these people leave here today and have a little more knowledge about how an ethanol plant is supposed run. I think this is a great idea."

Contact Eric Coley at

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