Ethanol plants a likely home for feed wheat

Any excess feed wheat grown in Western Canada this year should be able to find a home as an ethanol feedstock, according to an official with Husky Energy, although he says the company’s plants can use a wide variety of grains and will be in the market on a day-to-day basis for whatever makes the most economic sense.

While actual wheat production and quality is still unknown, the lateness of this year’s crop has many industry analysts speculating that more of the crop will grade as feed than normal. In a recent news conference discussing this year’s crop prospects, Bruce Burnett of the Canadian Wheat Board noted that eight to 10 per cent of Canada’s spring wheat crop typically grades as feed. He thought that number would likely be five per cent larger this year, although he added that there are many variables and harvest conditions will determine the actual makeup of the crop.

“Whatever is available, we’ll be in the market for,” said Graham White, senior communications advisor with Husky Energy. He said Husky will take feed grade wheat from local producers, but added that large consumption rates of both of the company’s ethanol plants often make it necessary for the marketers to buy other grains as well.

Husky’s Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, and Minnedosa, Manitoba, ethanol plants each have the capacity to produce 130 million litres of ethanol per year, making the company a buyer of 700,000 tonnes of grain in Western Canada annually.
Husky’s plants are highly flexible and the feed stocks used by to produce ethanol can change from day-to-day, said White, making it hard to say what the actual mix will be.

In general, the Minnedosa plant uses a higher proportion of corn, while Lloydminster uses more wheat due to local availabilities, said White.
“There is a lot more corn within a 100-kilometre radius of Minnedosa then there is in Lloydminster,” said White, noting that “whenever possible we use as much local stock as we possibly can.”

White said the company was reluctant to publish any actual prices being offered for feed wheat or other feedstocks, due to the high degree of variability from day-to-day. He said any producers with grain to sell within the catchment areas of the two plants should call the plants directly for that day’s price.

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