Firm plans Royal ethanol facility

Firm plans Royal ethanol facility

ROYAL – An Indiana agribusiness company is planning to build a 100-million-gallon ethanol plant in this rural Champaign County town.

JBS United, which operates several grain elevators in Illinois and Michigan, including one in Royal, announced Thursday it intends to construct the plant, but a company spokesperson declined to offer many details about the project.

"We're announcing it today because there are rumors out there and we wanted to get out to the public, 'Yes, this is happening,'" said Mike Shingler, director of marketing and public relations.

The plant will be near the current elevator at 101 N. Railroad St., Royal. It would use about 40 million bushels of corn annually.

The company declined to divulge the project's cost, construction timeline or any names of investors.

"They don't feel comfortable releasing that information yet," Shingler said.

This is the first ethanol venture for the Sheridan, Ind.-based company. JBS United is also looking into other ethanol opportunities, Shingler said.

Why Royal, a town of 278 people?

"We thought it would be a good fit with a county that supplies a lot of corn. Plus it's next to the Union Pacific Railroad," Shingler said.

The company would eventually create 40 to 45 new positions for the ethanol plant and additional jobs may be needed at the elevator, Shingler said.

"Our company has been looking at opportunities to participate in the growing demand for ethanol," said Les Busboom, the elevator's manager in a press release. "It's a natural fit for us as a corn originator to help bring a new market to our farmers that can reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Last summer President Bush signed a comprehensive energy bill that mandates an increase in production of biofuels, including ethanol. Ethanol, a renewable fuel, can be made from several commodities, including corn or sugar cane.

The Royal plant is one of several ethanol plants being discussed for East Central Illinois.

A variety of business groups, private investors and farmers are said to be considering building ethanol plants in towns like Gilman, Roberts, Tuscola and Champaign.

An ethanol plant in Champaign County would create another outlet or option for farmers when they sell their grain, said Brad Uken, Champaign County Farm Bureau manager.

"There is a sufficient number of outlets for corn in Champaign County, but it never hurts to add a little bit of competition," Uken said.

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