BLUFFTON - An ethanol plant in Wells County will soon be under new ownership. Nebraska-based Green Plains Inc. (Nasdaq: GPRE) has announced plans to sell three of its ethanol plants, including one in Bluffton, to Texas-based Valero Renewable Fuels Co. LLC in a $328 million deal. 

The other two plants involved in the sale are located in Lakota, Iowa and Riga, Michigan. Green Plains says the transaction involves approximately 20 percent of its reported ethanol production capacity.

Todd Becker, chief executive officer of Green Plains, says the sale of the three plants demonstrates the company's commitment to strengthening its balance sheet and unlocking value for its shareholders.

“As we stated in May, when we outlined our Portfolio Optimization Program, we would divest assets that enable us to execute our long-term strategic objectives," said Becker. "This sale is the first step towards our strategic objectives to prove the value of our assets and to significantly reduce or eliminate term debt by the end of 2018. We will continue with our optimization plan and anticipate communicating additional transactions in the near future."

Green Plains Inc. also announced an agreement to acquire the storage and transportation assets, along with the assignment of railcar leases, associated with the three ethanol plans from Green Plains Partners LP. Green Plains Inc. says it will exchange a portion of its ownership in the partnership, valued at nearly $121 million, as part of the deal.

Both transactions are expected to close in the fourth quarter, pending regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

Green Plains Inc. also has an ethanol facility in Mount Vernon, Indiana. Valero also has ethanol facilities in Mount Vernon and Linden.