MnDOT awards $450,000 railroad infrastructure enhancement grant to Epitome Energy of Crookston

    Although an official announcement is still forthcoming, plans are in the works for a new soybean processing and biodiesel facility to be constructed on the southern edge of Crookston off Highway 75.

    CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth, citing further official information that could be released as soon as Friday afternoon, told the Times when asked several questions about “Epitome Energy LLC” constructing a facility that he was very limited it what he could say. The Times asked about the size/scope of the facility, the number of jobs it will provide, what the timeline is between now and it becoming operational, exactly where it will be built, and the amount of soybeans that will be processed and how much biodiesel will be produced.

    (If/when an official release on Epitome Energy coming to Crookston is disseminated after the Times’ Friday print deadline, read the latest details at crookstontimes.com.)

    The announcement comes on the heels of the Minnesota Department of Transportation announcing that “Epitome Energy of Crookston” had been awarded a $450,000 grant for “new rail infrastructure to support a new soybean processing and biodiesel facility” here.

    The local grant application for Epitome Energy was one of three funded by MnDOT through its Minnesota Rail Service Improvement Program, a program that dates back to 1976. Two other approved grants will benefit initiatives in the Minnesota cities of Becker and New Brighton.

    According to MnDOT, nine applicants sought funding totaling more than $4.5 million. The three awarded grants total $1.55 million.

    Hoiseth said the grant award is critical to the entire project becoming a reality.

    “I would like to give a huge thank you to MnDOT for recognizing our grant application that we submitted this past fall as an important need for the project, and the $450,000 will be so helpful in offsetting some of the expenses of bringing the rail infrastructure into the site,” he said. “One of the things that made the soybean crush and biodiesel facility location desirable at this site was the proximity to the existing rail.”

    The Crookston City Council in recent weeks has held a couple of meetings, closed pursuant to statute to the media and public because they involved discussions related to the sale of property in Crookston. The City of Crookston and CHEDA owns around 100 acres of land south of Ingersoll Avenue on the southern edge of town, known as the “Colborn property,” and also has some additional acreage adjacent to that land, courtesy of the local economic development entity, Crookston Jobs, which, upon its dissolution a couple years ago, handed over the land to CHEDA to be used for economic development purposes.

Opportunity to capitalize

    A new 20 percent biodiesel mandate took effect on May 1, 2018 in Minnesota. Starting on that date, No. 2 diesel, the most common fuel used by truckers, must contain at least 20 percent biodiesel. The new law doubled the 10 percent biodiesel mandate that was on the books prior to May 1, 2018. Biodiesel is made mostly from soybeans, and the new law has created a biodiesel deficiency for the state, meaning that any new biodiesel facility would be especially valuable when it comes to closing the gap.

    While many petroleum companies and truckers themselves expressed opposition to the new mandate, citing increased business costs and the potential for the fuel gelling in especially cold weather, agricultural stakeholders praised the new law. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture at the time stated that the biodiesel industry adds more than $1.5 billion a year to the state’s bottom line and helps boost soybean prices.