In 2000, a steering committee formed by farmers and businesspeople in eastern Kansas got together with the support of the Agriculture Sub-Committee of the Anderson County Economic Development (ACED) organization. The objective was to build a value-added ethanol production facility in the area.
The steering committee voted on October 10, 2001, to form a limited liability company (LLC), and on October 15, 2001, East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC was formed as a legal entity.
In January 2002, EKAE held a seed capital drive and on January 22, 2003, East Kansas Agri-Energy, LLC received written approval to sell membership units (stock), an offering that successfully closed in the first half of 2005.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on October 24, 2004, with the plant being completed in an industry record eight months time.
On June 10, 2005, the first load of corn was delivered to the plant and the first gallon of ethanol was produced on June 22. A second industry record was set when the EKAE plant went on-line to full production status in three days.
In 2007, EKAE received a coveted Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) award for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). EKAE was the second ethanol plant in the country to receive accreditation under the program, which recognizes small businesses that operate an exemplary safety and health management system. EKAE has continued to be a member of the program since.
Also in 2007, EKAE was recognized by the Kansas Department of Labor for its excellent workplace safety record with a KSafe award. The award acknowledges the more than 100,000 employee hours worked at the plant without a lost-time accident. Since then, EKAE as worked more than 750,000 hours without a lost-time accident.
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency presented EKAE with an Energy Star award for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The steam turbine system generates approximately one-third of the facilities electrical demands and requires approximately 23 percent less fuel than typical onsite thermal generation and purchased electricity. Based on this comparison, the plant reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 14,500 tons per year, which is equivalent to removing the annual emissions from 2,400 cars and planting 3,000 acres of forest.
While the plant’s nameplate capacity calls for 35 million gallons of ethanol, EKAE now convert smore than 16 million bushels of corn a year into more than 45 million gallons of fuel grade ethanol. Along the way, the plant produces more than 200,000 tons of distiller grains, in both wet and dry form, for livestock producers every year. In May 2009, East Kansas Agri-Energy began producing corn oil, another value-added product, at the rate of 15,000 pounds per day, a figure that is greatly exceeded today.