Wisconsin Ethanol Plant Becomes Latest Bankruptcy Victim

Start-up delays and design flaws had capital stretched thin.

Wisconsin-based Renew Energy LLC is the latest ethanol producer to file for bankruptcy protection, as bloodletting in the renewable fuels industry continues to spread.

Renew sought protection from creditors for its Jefferson, Wis., plant, which was billed as the largest dry mill corn fractionation facility in the world. The operation was built on the site a former malting plant purchased from Cargill Inc. in 2006. The private company was started by investors that included the state largest grain dealers, owners of a transportation company and several of the area's largest farmers.

"Capital was already stretched as a result of start-up delays and operational problems that stemmed from numerous design flaws," CEO Jeff White said in prepared statement.

The plant has a capacity of 130 million gallons per year, and found financing to operate at reduced levels, White said. The company earlier in the month cut production rates and laid off a fifth of its workers.

Documents filed in bankruptcy court reported indicate the company owes creditors $100 million to $500 million. The filing gives Renew time to try to work out its debt or find a buyer for the plant.

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