Construction for an ethanol plant that will turn hundreds of thousands of tons of beet waste into fuel in Grand Forks is officially underway.

In August, officials celebrated the groundbreaking for the Red River Biorefinery. Dirtwork has already begun at the 11-acre construction site that will be home to the 80,000-square-foot ethanol plant.

“This value-added agriculture and energy project started years ago and our team at Commerce has been involved since the start,” Commerce Commissioner Jay Schuler said. “Members of our economic development team, the North Dakota Ag Products Utilization Commission and the North Dakota Development Fund were all a part of this project from the beginning.

The project that has been four years in the making is expected to be completed in December 2019. It will turn 500,000 metric tons of agricultural byproducts, including sugar beet waste, into about 18.8 million gallons of ethanol each year, according to the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.

It is expected to create 25 permanent jobs, as well as 20 secondary positions that will support activity the plant, including hauling byproducts in for processing

“Value-added is the future of our state economy,” Schuler said. “North Dakota is a national powerhouse in energy and agriculture production. This project is just one more example of how innovative companies have taken important steps to convert our energy resources into products of greater value.”