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Hoosier diesel refinery to make cleaner burning fuel
By NANCY LYBARGER
Indiana Correspondent

MOUNT VERNON, Ind. — Pretty soon, following a diesel truck won’t be such a breath-taking experience.

Countrymark Co-op Refinery in Mount Vernon is responsible for making diesel fuel that is so much cleaner burning that the EPA estimates that the black soot pouring out of diesel stacks will be reduced by 110,000 tons per year. It started production of the cleaner fuels on June 1, making it the first facility to be completed in the United States.

Countrymark officials hosted the grand opening of the new Diesel Fuel Processing Complex on June 8 with state government officials, Countrymark Co-op board members, employees and the construction team on hand to celebrate the new facility that will produce ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD).

Ground was broken for the $44 million facility less than two years ago in this far southwest Indiana town of about 7,500 people that lays alongside the Ohio River, near Illinois. Countrymark CEO Charlie Smith said the cooperative’s board decided about five years ago that the refinery would produce diesel fuels that would meet the new EPA mandates that will reduce emission from heavy-duty highway vehicles by more than 90 percent.

“Countrymark will fuel the future,” said Jon Lantz, the company’s vice president of supply and marketing.

Lantz told the crowd under the tent at the front of the facility that not only did the project come in on time, but it was also on budget. Smith said the facility is the result of EPA mandates that require refineries to remove sulfur from diesel fuel. EPA news releases dated June 1 said, starting with the 2007 model year, new diesel heavy-duty vehicles must be able to operate on the ULSD. EPA will require refiners and fuel importers to reduce the sulfur content of diesel fuel by 97 percent.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management Director Tom Easterly estimated that within a decade all the heavy diesel equipment on the road will be fueled by ULSD. The sulfur levels in the new fuels must be lowered from 500 parts per million to 15, Easterly said.

Refiners who are not taking the steps to reduce sulfur in their diesel fuels will soon be forced out of business. There is a one-year grace period for the transition to be completed.

“By addressing diesel fuel and engines as a single system, this action will produce the clean air equivalent of eliminating air pollution from 90 percent – or about 13 million – of today’s trucks and buses,” the EPA newsroom reported.

Smith said Countrymark buys all its crude oil for refining at Mount Vernon from oil producers in the Illinois basin, which covers southern Indiana and Illinois and northwestern Kentucky. “Seventy-five percent of all farm fuels (from Countrymark) are refined right here,” he said.

With the construction of the facility, Countrymark officials noted that 130 jobs have been saved in the Posey County area around Mount Vernon. An additional 10 jobs were added to support the upgrade. The economic impact on the area is $11 million annually, just in wages, according to Smith.

This farm news was published in the June 14, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/14/2006