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Producing renewable energy for a cleaner environment.

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Granite Falls Energy, LLC (“GFE”) is a Minnesota limited liability company currently producing fuel-grade ethanol, distillers’ grains, and crude corn oil near Granite Falls, Minnesota and sells these products, pursuant to marketing agreements, throughout the continental U.S. and on the international market. GFE’s plant has an approximate annual production capacity of 63 million gallons but is currently permitted to produce up to 70 million gallons of undenatured ethanol on a twelve-month rolling sum basis.

Additionally, GFE has 100% ownership in Heron Lake BioEnergy, LLC (“HLBE”). HLBE is a Minnesota limited liability company currently producing fuel-grade ethanol, distillers’ grains, and crude corn oil near Heron Lake, Minnesota and sells these products, pursuant to marketing agreements, throughout the continental United States. HLBE’s plant has an approximate annual production capacity of 65 million gallons but is currently permitted to produce up to 72.3 million gallons per year of undenatured ethanol on a twelve-month rolling sum basis. Additionally, HLBE, through a wholly owned subsidiary, operates a natural gas pipeline that provides natural gas to the HLBE’s ethanol production facility and other customers.

Ethanol FAQ

Ethanol is a high octane, liquid, domestic and renewable fuel, produced by the fermentation of plant sugars. In the United States, ethanol is typically produced from corn and other grain products although in the future it may be economically produced from other biomass resources such as agricultural and forestry wastes or specially grown energy crops. 

  • E85 has an octane of approximately 105. 
  • E85 sells for approximately the same price as unleaded gasoline. 
  • Ethanol reduces the incidence of greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Ethanol is domestically produced and promotes energy independence. 
  • Ethanol production increases the value of feed grains grown by farmers. 
  • Ethanol is biodegradable and does not contaminate water. 
  • Ethanol can be produced from a number of different feedstrocks including paper and agricultural waste. 



  1. Milling: the corn (or barley or wheat) will first pass through hammer mills, which grind it into a fine powder called meal.
  2. Liquefaction: The meal will then be mixed with water and alpha-amylase, and will pass through cookers where the starch is liquefied. Heat will be applied at this stage to enable liquefaction. Cookers with a high-temperature stage (120-150- degrees Celsius) and a lower-temperature holding period (95 degrees Celsius) will be used.  These high temperatures reduce bacteria levels in the mash.
  3. Saccharification:  The mash from the cookers will then be cooled and the secondary enzyme (gluco-amylase) will be added to convert to the liquefied starch to fermentable sugars (dextrose), a process called saccharifaction.
  4. Fermentation:  Yeast will then be added to the mash to ferment the sugars to ethanol and carbon dioxide.  Using a continuous process, the fermenting mash will be allowed to flow, or cascade, through several fermenters until the mash is fully fermented and then leaves the final tank. In a batch fermentation process, the mash stays in one fermenter for about 48 hours before the distillation process is started.
  5. Distillation: The fermented mash, now called “beer”, will contain about 10% alcohol, as well as all the non-fermentable solids from the corn and the yeast cells.  The mash will then be pumped to the continuous flow, multi-column distillation system where the alcohol will be removed from the solids and the water.  The alcohol will leave the top of the final column at about 96% strength, and the residual mash, called stillage, will be transferred from the base of the column to the co-product processing area.
  6. Dehydration:  The alcohol from the top of the column will then pass through a dehydration system where the remaining water will be removed.  Most ethanol plants use a molecular sieve to capture the last bit of water in the ethanol.  The alcohol product at this stage is called anhydrous (pure, without water) ethanol and is approximately 200 proof.
  7. Denaturing:  Ethanol that will be used for fuel is then denatured with a small amount (2-5%) of some product, like gasoline, to make it unfit for human consumption.
  8. Co-Products: There are two main co-products created in the production of ethanol: carbon dioxide and distiller’s grain.  Carbon dioxide is given off in great quantities during fermentation and many ethanol plants collect that carbon dioxide, clean it of any residual alcohol, compress it and sell it for use to carbonate beverages or in the flash freezing of meat.  Distiller’s grains, wet and dried, are high in protein and other nutrients and are a highly valued livestock feed ingredient.  Some ethanol plants also create a “syrup” containing some of the solids that can be a separate product sold in addition to the distiller’s grain, or combined with it.  Ethanol production is a no-waste process that adds value to the corn by converting it into more valuable products.  

American Coalition for Ethanol Fuel Economy Study 

The United States faces many challenges as our consumption of gasoline increases. While ethanol alone will not solve these challenges, it can play a significant role in an overall solution.

Reduces Dependence on Foreign Countries

In the year 2000, for the first time in our history, the US imported more foreign oil than we produced domestically. As our gasoline consumption continues to increase, our dependence on foreign nations is also projected to increase. Most people agree that something must be done to reverse this trend.

Ethanol blended into our gasoline extends our fuel supply, which reduces the amount of oil the US must import. Since ethanol is produced from domestically grown corn, utilizing our own resource shifts some of this dependence back to the heartland of the United States.

Cleaner Air and Water

The 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act require that the gasoline sold in our country's most polluted cities must contain some form of oxygenate to reduce auto emissions. Today, there are only two economically viable oxygenates available to meet this requirement - MTBE and ethanol. While both assist in cleaning our air, MTBE contaminates ground water and is a suspected carcinogen; it has been banned in 13 states, including California, New York, and Illinois.

As states struggle with MTBE clean-up efforts, ethanol is being viewed as the only safe and economically viable alternative to MTBE. It provides a similar clean air characteristic but without any potentially harmful side affects. Ethanol demand is projected to grow significantly over the next several years as it replaces MTBE throughout our nation.

Ethanol is a high-octane, anhydrous (water-free) alcohol produced by fermenting converted starch from corn with yeast. Ethanol can help reduce global warming because less carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere than with conventional gasoline. Because it is an environmentally friendly source of high-octane fuel, it is widely used as a blending ingredient in gasoline more than two billion gallons per year. All car manufacturers approve the use of ethanol in their warranties, and both General Motors and Chrysler recommend its use for environmental reasons. Certain cars and trucks can use ethanol blended up to 85% with gasoline (called flexible-fuel vehicles).


As our gasoline consumption grows, the search for new oil resources expands. To gain access to these precious reserves, we are drilling deeper into our oceans and threatening to destroy our protected lands. The pristine wilderness lost may never be restored, and it will take literally millions of years to replace these oil sources. Ethanol is produced from corn, which is harvested and replanted annually. Portions of the kernel that are not converted to ethanol are dried and sold as premium, high-protein cattle feed. CO2 is another useable and marketable byproduct.

What is cellulostic ethanol? 

E85 is the term for motor fuel blends of 85% ethanol and just 15% gasoline. It is a renewable biofuel designed for use in Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV). Ethanol is an alcohol made from corn and other starch crops like barley and wheat that have been converted into simple sugars and then fermented and distilled. Ethanol has been used in cars since Henry Ford designed his 1908 Model T to operate on alcohol.

E85 keeps your fuel system clean because it burns cleaner than regular gas or diesel and doesn't leave behind gummy deposits. Not concerned about engine life? Then perhaps performance is important to you. E85 has the highest octane of any commercially available automotive fuel at more than 100. This compares very favorably to the octane rating of regular unleaded of 89 or premium of 93.

The performance characteristics of ethanol are sufficient to have convinced The Indy Racing League, which includes the Indianapolis 500, to switch to 100% ethanol starting in 2006 to fuel the race cars. If it's good enough for race cars speeding at over 200 miles per hour, surely it is good enough for your Flexible Fuel Vehicle, too.

When you add oxygen to a fire, the flame grows. This same principle happens in your engine. Adding ethanol to your fuel adds oxygen to the fuel. This additional oxygen helps your engine to more fully combust the gasoline. This results in fewer harmful tailpipe emissions like carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and other toxic components. The American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago credits ethanol-blended fuel with reducing smog-forming emissions there by 25% since 1990.

In addition to clean air benefits, E85 is a "Renewable Fuel". Why is it considered renewable? Ethanol is made from grain produced on farms across the country. Although ethanol can be produced from a variety of grains, today it is made primarily from corn. The energy of sun is captured in the corn as it grows. When the corn is processed into ethanol, the energy of the sun is converted to ethanol. The following season, a new crop is planted and more fuel and energy are harvested. Contrast this to the production of crude oil buried deep within the earth's core. The oil we're burning took hundreds of millions of years to form. Once extracted from the ground, the oil is not renewed... at least for another couple hundred million or so years.

When burned, fossil fuels release carbon, once locked deep within the earth's core, into the atmosphere. Science points to these releases as one of the leading causes of global warming.

Unlike fossil fuels, E85 actually reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The grain or other biomass used to make ethanol absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows.

Ethanol use provides benefits to the entire nation. Most Americans do not realize the risk our nation faces as a result of our dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts the nation's oil consumption will grow 44% between 2000 and 2025. Over this same time period, our dependence on imports will grow from 54% to 70%.

In addition to national benefits, ethanol production contributes to economic growth in rural communities across the heartland of our nation. The combination of spending for annual plant operations and capital spending for new plants under construction added more than $25.1 billion to gross output in the U.S. economy in 2004. In that same year, the ethanol industry supported the creation of more than 147,000 jobs in all sectors of the U.S. economy, boosting U.S. household income by $4.4 billion.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ethanol production adds 25-50 cents to the value of a bushel of corn, or as much as $5.5 billion over the entire corn crop per year. The increased value of the corn lowers federal farm program costs. In 2004, USDA estimates ethanol production reduced farm program costs by $3.2 billion. 

Can my car use E-85?

Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) are specially designed to run on any ethanol fuel blend up to 85 percent. Special on-board diagnostics "read" the fuel blend, enabling drivers to fuel with E85 or gasoline if E85 is not available, without worrying about what is in the tank.


For more information about flex fuel vehicles please visit the following site;
Flex Fuel Vehicles

To view the most updated list visit Map of Stations

Our Team

Michael Green
Chief Executive Officer

Cory Heinrich
Plant Manager

Carol Gabbert
EHS Manager

Matt Clausen
Risk Manager

Adam Koepke
Grain Originator

Stacie Schuler
Chief Financial Officer

Angela Paulson
Assistant Controller

Kim Buysse
Sr. Staff Accountant

Elizabeth Lewison
Staff Accountant/Investor Services

Lowanda Frank
Human Resources/Admin Assistant

Holly Cobb
Receptionist/Office Assistant

Our Board of Governors

Kenton Johnson

Sherry Larson
Vice Chairman

Dean Buesing

Robin Spaude

Sam Hansen

Leslie Bergquist

Phillip Coffin

Paul Kvistad

Kevin Sharkey

Marty Seifert
Alternate Governor

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