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Published October 26, 2009, 07:35 AM

Southwest N.D. ethanol plant officials expect profit

A southwestern North Dakota ethanol plant has overcome a year of financial struggles and is heading toward a profit, its top officials say.

RICHARDTON, N.D. (AP) — A southwestern North Dakota ethanol plant has overcome a year of financial struggles and is heading toward a profit, its top officials say.

“We did show a loss last year and in the first two quarters of this year, but now our preliminary numbers for the third quarter show that we’ll have a profit in the third quarter,” said Mark Klimpel, chief financial officer of Red Trail Energy LLC, in Richardton.

A financial report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed the ethanol plant lost $5.4 million last year. The report cited lower demand nationwide.

The plant’s chief executive officer, Gerald Bachmeier, said Red Trail produced 55 million gallons of ethanol last year.

“Margins in the industry, overall, were not very good,” Klimpel said.

Still, he said, “The plant has just continued operating as normal and we haven’t laid anybody off.”

Earlier this month, a routine shutdown may have left some area residents wondering if the plant was still operating.

“We did just shut down for our normal fall maintenance, and so we were down for a short period,” Klimpel said.

“People will drive by and they think the plant isn’t operating, especially in the summertime,” Klimpel said. “Mostly in the winter time is when you can see the smoke coming from the stacks, and in the summertime you really can’t see it.”

Bachmeier said the financial situation never escalated to the point of ceasing production, but the plant has been working to become more efficient.

“We’ve done some things internally to turn the company around,” he said. “We’re really focusing on our corn purchasing program and how we managed that over Quarter 3, and how we’re looking forward into the future to really align ourselves with producers.”

Bachmeier said he could not disclose if Red Trail expects a profit or loss overall in 2009, but said he is optimistic about its future.

“Right now, the economics in the industry are positive,” he said.

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