CHS, the Minnesota-based agribusiness, reported strong earnings on the back of high demand for fuel in the third quarter — the first full reporting period to measure the economic shockwaves caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

While acknowledging "volatility" due to the ongoing war in eastern Europe, the nation's largest farmer-owned cooperative amassed $576 million in net profits, citing "robust demand" and a favorable price of Canadian crude oil, for the three-month period ending May 31.

CHS processes oil at two refineries, in Kansas and Montana, that it then sells at service stations across rural America. The energy sector drew $163.2 million in pretax earnings — an increase of $158 million over the same quarter a year ago. The ag sector reported $237 million, also a sizable increase year-over-year.

"Unfortunately, Ukraine — in some cases — is giving us [momentum]," said Jay Debertin, CEO of CHS in an interview with the Star Tribune on Wednesday at the co-op's headquarters in Inver Grove Heights. "Energy is stronger. Grains are stronger. Fertilizer is stronger. But, at the same time, I'd quickly trade those profits for people not being horribly abused."

The results show a remarkable turnaround from just a year earlier when the nation's demand for gasoline remained far below pre-pandemic levels. According to the 2021 annual report, CHS lost $10 million in its energy business in the fiscal year beginning in 2020.

While delivering a boost in profits, the last nine months have not been without challenges — some of them unprecedented.

A ship carrying CHS's grain has been stalled in a Black Sea port since February. On Wednesday, company executives described the grain trade out of the war-torn country — via rail, rather than ship — as a trickle of normal operations.

"We don't have any base reference for some of the experiences we're having," said John Griffith, executive vice president of ag business and CHS Hedging. "Like having a loaded vessel of grain sitting in port unable to move since the 24th of February, still there today."

Overall, the co-op reported $34 billion in revenues through the first nine months of the fiscal year, compared with $28 billion during the same period a year ago.