September 27, 2011
Knox College students got an up-close look at the ethanol-production process when they visited the Big River Resources plant in Galva, Illinois.
"I'm blown away by this!" student Hannah Basil, a Knox College Business Club member from Chicago, Illinois, said while touring the facility, which is about 25 miles northeast of the Knox campus. The Business Club organized the trip.
"The students truly enjoyed this detailed tour, and Big River could not have been more cooperative and genuinely interested in educating our group," Spittell said.
"Students had a unique opportunity to study the business model of ethanol production from both a managerial and operational point of view," he added. "I believe it sincerely broadened their comprehension of this sector, from inputs to outputs, (and) from operations to management to economic impact."
The students said they definitely gained from the experience.
"John Spittell has frequently told me and all of his students to take every opportunity," said Renni Johnson, a Knox student from Lincoln, Nebraska, who is majoring in creative writing. "This was a great opportunity to learn and see the process of producing ethanol first-hand."
Basil, who in 2010 was selected for the prestigious Kemper Scholars Program, said she wanted to find out more about ethanol because she studied alternative energy options in Environmental Studies 180/Sustainability: Explorations and Opportunities. The class is taught by Knox Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman.
"The trip offered the opportunity to connect environmental themes to real-world business practices," said Basil, who is majoring in economics. "I have a broader understanding of the ethanol issue (now)."
"In both my business and environmental studies courses, we often discuss different energy types," added Basil, who had a summer internship with the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. "It is one thing to read about processes, and a whole other thing to visit a plant and physically see all that goes into it."
Gene Youngquist, a member of the Big River Resources Executive Committee, led the tour and described how the plant processes corn into renewable fuel and feed products. The Galva plant produces more than 100 million gallons of ethanol each year, he told the group. The company also operates ethanol plants in West Burlington, Iowa, and in Dyersville, Iowa.
Runtian Bai, a Knox student from Urbana, Illinois, who is majoring in economics, was impressed by what he saw while touring the plant. "It is an efficient organization with fast-moving technology, and they are cutting edge," he said.