LEIPSIC — Walking through the Poet Biorefining plant in Leipsic, one could be forgiven for thinking the plant makes bread or beer, given the yeasty aroma inside. However, crews throughout the day take in corn and ferment it, with the result being pure, 200-proof ethanol used in fuel.
“You’ll come in at different points in the process when you start your day,” supervisor Chad Gratz said. “But at the end of the day, you’ll have gone through the entire process.”
Part of that process is periodically checking the corn, yeast and water mixture as it is fermenting, ensuring that the ethanol is being created at a good rate, along with testing the finished product to ensure its purity and water content. Because there is no oil or gasoline involved, the plant defies the conventional concept of a refinery, with no smoky air or oily floors in sight.
While some of Gratz’s crew are relatively new, only having a couple of years experience, some of the crew have been together for as many as nine years.
“Sometimes you can spend more time with these guys than you do with your own family,” he said. “And we’ll even get together outside of work sometimes, going to a baseball or hockey game. I guess we don’t see enough of each other yet.”