Epitome Energy founder says Crookston project could open the door to partnerships and new technologies

    Could Epitome Energy’s soybean crush and biodiesel production facility launch in Crookston open doors to other partnerships and technologies?

    Epitome founder Dennis Egan thinks so. He told community stakeholders at this week’s kickoff meeting that he hopes to partner with University of Minnesota Crookston to bring new soybean varieties to market making their center more innovative with new technologies, that livestock operations could move closer with available meal from the plant, and there could be company spinoffs in the next five to six years moving research forward.

    Bringing a value-added facility like Epitome to the area will also bring new opportunities, Egan explained. He wasn’t looking to create additional competition to the marketplace, but, instead, working with the existing co-ops and being a “good community partner.”

    Minnesota is the third largest producer of soybeans in the United States and, in 2017, northwest Minnesota farmers planted over 1.8 million acres of soybeans with 326,000 acres coming from Polk County, the highest acreage of an MN county. Current biodiesel production, made from the chemical process called transesterification which splits oil from vegetables like soybeans or animal fats into two parts: alkyl esters (used for fuel) and glycerine (used to make soap and other beauty products), only provides 53 percent of Minnesota’s mandate for B20 biodiesel.

    Crookston’s proposed plant could produce 30 million gallons of biodiesel per year adding to the approximate 85.5 million gallons (source: Minnesota Department of Agriculture) that the state’s other three biodiesel plants currently produce per year. Egan told this week’s group that he recently signed a letter of intent with a purchaser for the first 30 million gallons their proposed facility produces.

    The facility will also crush soybeans into soybean oil and soybean meal. The oil will be a feedstock into the biodiesel process, and the meal will be processed for animal feed.

    Egan says that the turkey industry is moving north and MN pork producers are looking at operating in Northwest Minnesota as well. With available meal around 200 miles closer, additional livestock operations could move closer, he added.

    Besides assisting the state in meeting their mandate for biodiesel, Egan adds, there are opportunities on the east coast and the need for heating fuel with such mandates in Pennsylvania and New York.

    “What value are we bringing to the construction project?” he remarked. “How can we give back to the community financially and be a good community partner?”

    Epitome Energy has also been in conversation with American Crystal Sugar Company to see about using some of the water Crystal’s plant produces instead of using all city water for Epitome’s operations. Additionally, he’s had meetings with foreign buyers from Australia and Chile to seek out opportunities to sell meal out of the country.

    “We want to partner; how do we interact not only on the job side?” Egan added.