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Published January 05, 2010, 03:57 PM

Equipment malfunction costs Casselton ethanol plant millions

Casselton, ND (WDAY TV) - A major equipment malfunction has cost the Tharaldson Ethanol Plant in Casselton millions of dollars, forcing the company to buy new equipment to get up to full speed.

By: Stephanie Goetz, WDAY

It was a problem that engineers thought they could fix: the machine that dried wet distiller’s grain at Tharaldson Ethanol Plant in Casselton constantly clogged up, leaving crews to manually shovel out the blockage.

RUSS NEWMAN/THARALDSON ETHANOL PLANT: "In hindsight, we probably should've used a more proven system."

After a year of frustration, plant officials decided to pull the plug on the German equipment, crews are now building a new grain dryer, but plant officials are looking back on a year that was not what they planned for.

NEWMAN: "A lot of businesses, you don't always get it right the first time."

The massive plant is built to make 100 million gallons of ethanol a year, but because of the faulty equipment, they were only able to put out about 50 million gallons. If each gallon is sold at the current rate of $1.70, it adds up to a 85 million dollar loss.

NEWMAN: "It's the opportunity that was lost, which is certainly unfortunate."

With last touches on piping and other details, construction is slated to finish in two weeks. Then, the plant will be running at full capacity. Plant officials say they hope this year will start much differently than last.

NEWMAN: "We certainly feel like we're on the right track now to have a very successful year."

Construction should be finished within the next two weeks. Newman says operations will be running at full capacity.

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