According to a Jan. 15, 2013 Wichita Eagle article, the ethanol plant in Pratt is now under new ownership and will open sometime this spring. The 55-million gallon plant has had a lengthy and sundry history with multiple starts and stops and a very brief history of actually producing ethanol.
This plant was originally conceived by Pratt-native Richard Jarboe who began work on Southwest Ethanol LLC in 2003 with plans to be operational by December 2005. At some point the plant name changed to the Wildcat Bio-Energy LLC plant and later to the Gateway Ethanol LLC, when the same group of investors became Orion Energy. Construction on the plant began in January 2006. By the time it became operational it was owned by Orion Energy of Pratt and was known as Gateway Ethanol LLC. At that time, it was expected to have 36 employees, produce 50 million gallons of ethanol annually and have an annual payroll of $1 million.
In late October 2007, some ethanol production began, though the plant never reached full-production. By February 2008, the plant was closed and in December 2008 its assets were purchased in bankruptcy court by Minneapolis-based investment bank Dougherty Funding, which already held the plant’s debt and had forced the plant into foreclosure due to default.
In February 2011, it was announced that the Scoular Group of Omaha, Neb. had purchased the plant with plans to begin operating in the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2011, though apparently, this never materialized. On Monday, January 14, 2013, Scoular Group announced that they it sold a majority of its interest in the plant to a group of investors from called Pratt Biofuel Investors. This same group of investors are also involved with the Calgren Renewable Fuels ethanol plant in Pixley, Calif. According to the January 15, 2013 Wichita Eagle article, “Scoular retains full ownership of the track and elevator and a minority stake in the ethanol plant. It will procure all feedstock for the plant and market and ship the ethanol and distillers grains produced there.”
For more on the Pratt Ethanol plant and a list of articles about the plant (some archived), please click here.