Purchase photos

Ethanol plant asks council for help

7/19/2012

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

RUSSELL -- Regis Weiss made an impassioned plea to the Russell City Council, asking them to consider White Energy's past and ongoing conservation efforts.

Conservation steps taken as far back as 2006 -- at the urging of the Russell City Council then -- remain in place, the manager of the facility said.

That's why he asked the council Tuesday to consider those efforts today when the city is asking industrial users to again reduce water use by 25 percent.

When Russell moved into the third -- out of four -- phase of its water conservation plan recently, the city restricted outside watering to a single day a week and banned the washing of cars.

It also made the reduction request of industrial users.

Weiss said White Energy continues that path of conservation.

He also asked the council to consider letting White Energy increase the amount of water it buys from outside sources, such as the Post Rock Rural Water District.

Appearing before the council, Weiss said White Energy's conservation efforts since 2007, when they were fully implemented, have cost nearly $2 million.

"The first thing I want to point out is this is not about money," he said.

Instead, he said his appearance before the council is "so you realize we are very, very, very focused on conservation."

White Energy is the city's largest water user.

Detailing the plant's water use, Weiss said it used 190 million gallons in 2005.

Last year, that use was 133.4 million gallons.

Water use is at its highest right now, he said of July and August use, because of the heat.

While water use has gone down, White's costs have gone up, nearly doubling since 2005.

Other than to talk about the wheat gluten plant operated in concert with the ethanol plant, Weiss didn't press the council on the firm's importance to the economy. White provides approximately 70 jobs in Russell.

The gluten plant, he said, provides nearly half of the wheat protein produced in the United States.

"We have every pound of our product sold through 2012," he said. "We have two-thirds of our product in 2013 sold."

Council members were sympathetic to Weiss, especially as far as raising the cap on water White can buy elsewhere.

In 2006, when the city asked White to reduce its water use, an agreement was struck limiting how much water it could buy from other sources. Currently, White can purchase approximately 82,000 gallons of water a day from other sources.

"Would Post Rock be able to deliver 80,000?" Councilman Jim Cross asked.

"Yes," Weiss said, adding it might take some construction to increase the size of the pipeline leading into the plant.

No decision was made on increasing the amount White can purchase elsewhere.