By Michael Hirtzer
Nov 4 (Reuters) - Indiana's oldest ethanol plant will soonrestart under the new ownership of Noble Group Ltd after the facility was idled for more than a year, localofficials said on Monday.
The 30-year-old plant in South Bend, in the northern part ofthe state, was shut down last year when the former owners, NewEnergy Corp, filed for bankruptcy.
Liquidators purchased the plant at auction in January for$2.5 million and then sold it in July to Noble Americas, asubsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Noble Group, said South Bend'sdirector of business development Chris Fielding.
Terms of the sale to Noble were not disclosed. Noble did notrespond to requests for comment.
Noble is hiring 50 employees to operate the plant and plansto resume operations early in 2014, Fielding said.
"They want to get going as fast as possible. They areplanning for the first quarter, certainly by the end of March,"Fielding said.
Grain buyers for the facility were not yet bidding for corn,sources in the cash grains market said.
The plant can produce 100 million gallons of ethanol peryear, compared with nearby facilities owned by The Andersons Inc and Archer Daniels Midland Co that can produce,respectively, 110 million to 300 million gallons a year,according to company and industry data.
Corn is the most widely used feedstock in U.S. ethanolproduction. U.S. farmers are harvesting a record-large corn cropthat is expected to total 14 billion bushels or more, and themore plentiful supply has pushed corn futures down tothree-year lows and improved profit margins for makers of thebiofuel.
An ethanol plant in neighboring Ohio restarted last monthafter being idled for nearly five years.
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