The exterior of the Cardinal Ethanol plant Friday morning.  (Photo: Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press)
The exterior of the Cardinal Ethanol plant Friday morning. (Photo: Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press)
MUNCIE — It's been a bad year for Indiana's 1.2-billion-gallons-per-year ethanol industry — a grain-dust explosion, two injuries, a death, net operating losses, environmental fines, safety fines, weather-delayed corn planting, oil bailouts, a tariff battle with China, two plant closures and other problems.

In Randolph County, the grassroots Cardinal Ethanol plant, despite having what it called a record year for efficiency, reported a net operating loss of $6.6 million for fiscal year 2019 — after enjoying annual profits of as much as $87.3 million over the past decade.

The plant paid a $27,000 fine to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's Office of Air Quality this year to settle allegations including failure to obtain state approval for a new fermenter and new pollution control equipment.

In its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cardinal says its ethanol production declined during the first quarter of 2019 due to a temporary plant shutdown related to an explosion in one of its grain silos in the last quarter of 2018.

"We received final quotes to repair the damage to the silo of $1,794,000 and our insurance carrier made a commitment to pay us that amount," the company reported. "However, our board of directors voted to abandon the damaged silo and decided to instead build additional flat storage in its place due to the fact that flat storage is likely to be a safer alternative to a silo."
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