Firm eyes area near Old Fort for plant


OLD FORT, Ohio - Officials with a Lima, Ohio, company last night discussed plans for a 54,000-gallon-a-year ethanol plant that could be built in Seneca County.

Greg Kruger, co-founder of Greater Ohio Ethanol LLC, told a crowd of about 100 people at Old Fort High School that the company expects to decide by the end of next month where to build the first of seven planned facilities in the Midwest.

The idea is to serve the growing demand in the eastern United States for ethanol, a clean-burning gasoline additive. “We re filling in a void in the eastern corn belt,” said David Houx, a member of the company s board.

Greater Ohio is considering a 60-acre site at Seneca County Road 34 and Pleasant Township Road 75, just outside Old Fort, Mr. Houx said. The company also is looking at brownfield sites in the Lima area and a site in central Ohio, he added. The initial plant would employ 30 people and cost about $60 million. Company officials hope to break ground this summer and begin production by early next year.

The Pleasant Township parcel is owned by two Green Springs, Ohio, men - Bill Frankart and Larry Barto - and P.M. Gillmor, an Old Fort banker and father of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort).

Mr. Frankart said the property is the site of a former Columbia Gas refinery that converted LP gas to natural gas. The plant operated from the early 1970s until the mid 1980s and has been unused since.

Mr. Frankart and Mr. Barto said they approached company officials last month about possibly selling the land for use as a plant site.

The site has a Norfolk Southern rail spur and gas and water lines, and is next to an Arm & Hammer plant that would be a customer for the carbon dioxide produced by an ethanol facility, Mr. Frankart said.

Ohio uses about 220 million gallons of ethanol a year, but has no production plants. Plans for ethanol facilities near Hicksville in Defiance County, and in Leipsic in Putnam County have stalled in the last two years. High corn prices and a lack of state subsidies were cited for suspending the Putnam County project in 2002.

Michigan has one ethanol-production plant near Saginaw. A consortium based in Lenawee County announced plans in November to build a 40-million-gallon production facility in southeast Michigan.