MINA, S.D. — Patrick “Pat” Hogan is director of operations for Glacial Lakes Energy, headquartered in Watertown, S.D. The corn-to-ethanol fuel company runs South Dakota plants in Mina, Watertown, Aberdeen and Huron.
Hogan’s dizzying life and career have spanned the globe. His parents were from England and migrated first to Canada and then to New Zealand, where his father was an administrator at Massey University.
After high school, Hogan spent three years as an operator with the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute, making cheese. He acquired a diploma in dairy technology and transferred to a dairy processor that had a distillery attached — making alcohol from casein whey.
In 1995, he traveled for work to Ireland and the U.S. and decided he had to move to America. He moved to his native Canada to work for API Grain Processors (now Permolex Ltd.) at Red Deer, Alberta.
After a year, he moved to the U.S. at Louisville, Ky., making fuel grade alcohol from beverage waste from cans of beer that don’t get sold.
“We’d capture the liquid product, either re-distill it to get the alcohol, or ferment it if it was a sugar base. Process all the packaging, aluminum, cardboard” he explained.
Then it was on to US BioEnergy Corp., based at Inver Grove Heights, Minn., doing training on start-up plants. Hogan spent months in a parade of plants — Ord, Neb.; Albert City, Iowa; Marion, S.D.; Hankinson, N.D. He was in management at Dyersville, Iowa, in March 2008, when the company was bought out by VeraSun Energy Corp., which went bankrupt in October 2008. The plant sat idle for nine months and was bought out by Big River Resources LLC, West Burlington, Iowa. Hogan worked there five years, and went to Green Plains Inc. in Obion, Tenn., for two years, before coming to Glacial Lakes five years ago.
Plants have all been “identical,” built by ICM and Fagen.
“You can go to any of these plants — Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Tennessee,” he said. “You walk into one, you’ve walked in them all. What makes a difference is the people that’s running them.”
Hogan suggests people considering a career could start with maintenance or operations studies at technical schools.
“But that’s education,” he said.
For success and advancement you need a good work ethic, a good attitude and using logic: “Don’t panic. Think things through. If you’ve made a wrong decision, hopefully you’ll learn from that, correct it, and move on.”