Ethanol producers facing problems

HANLONTOWN, Iowa - Those who produce, haul or buy ethanol are seeing some major changes.

The cost to ship ethanol combined with shifts in supply and demand have those with the Renewable Fuel Association fed up with what they say are major issues with the railroad system.

POET biorefining is celebrating 10 years in business and while there’s been plenty of success along the way there are also bumps in the road.

“Recently I will say we have noticed these increased times return times for train. We’ll load out, it will travel to another state and then it does take quite a bit longer for it to return,” said Kelly Hanson, General Manager of POET.

And according to Hanson, that can be a costly process.

“It’s clearly a concern if the return of the cars took to long we could potentially shut the plant down,” said Hanson.

POET is running a 24-7 business.

They depend on a consistent cycle.

That means, if storage facilities fill up with the product, they need railcars to come and pick that product up.

And if that doesn’t happen, trouble can brew.

But at Manly Terminal things are running smoother, that’s because their shipping situation is a bit different.

“Actually because we work so well with the Iowa Northern as a short line we’ve been able to work with them very well so we haven’t see much of an impact here,” said Leanne Elwood, Facility Manager at Manly Terminal.

Because their product moves a shorter distance, they’re not seeing the railroad troubles.

But managers sure are hearing about it.

“It can be frustrating at times obviously but we know that what we are doing here is the best that we can do in order to get the cars out for our customers,” said Elwood.

While Hanson made it clear that things are still running smoothly for him at POET we still wanted to find out what’s slowing things down on the railroad.

Those at Union Pacific Railroad tell us the delay is due to weather.

With such a hard winter this year, getting railcars across the state has been very difficult.

But they are working on addressing the problem.

“For the rail industry we are moving America’s goods as quickly as we can. We are seeing improvements and we’ll continue to focus on reducing the variability not only in our network but be able to help the eastern railroads,” said Mark Davis, Spokesman for Union Pacific.

Davis says right now they are working to move rail cars south from the Twin Cities and Chicago area, so they can ship more products.

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