By Michael Hirtzer
Nov 4 (Reuters) - Indiana's oldest ethanol plant will soon restart under the new ownership of Noble Group Ltd after the facility was idled for more than a year, local officials said on Monday.
The 30-year-old plant in South Bend, in the northern part of the state, was shut down last year when the former owners, New Energy 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, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Noble Group, said South Bend's director of business development Chris Fielding.
Terms of the sale to Noble were not disclosed. Noble did not respond to requests for comment.
Noble is hiring 50 employees to operate the plant and plans to resume operations early in 2014, Fielding said.
"They want to get going as fast as possible. They are planning 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 per year, 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. ethanol production. U.S. farmers are harvesting a record-large corn crop that is expected to total 14 billion bushels or more, and the more plentiful supply has pushed corn futures down to three-year lows and improved profit margins for makers of the biofuel.
An ethanol plant in neighboring Ohio restarted last month after being idled for nearly five years.