Kansas Energy Projects Fuel Economic Promise
by Tim Carpenter (Topeka Capital Journal) Grants of $20.5 million offer twist to ethanol plant, farm machinery
A $15.9 million investment of federal economic stimulus cash by Gov. Sam Brownback hangs on an Oakley ethanol plant’s vision of generating value from manure and grain dust, as well as food waste.
Western Plains Energy chief executive officer Steve McNinch said people expressed doubt about the notion of an anaerobic digestion facility producing enough biofuel to run the company’s 50-million gallon ethanol plant.
The plant relies on natural gas to provide processing heat, but the state aid made available one year ago, and a separate $5 million payment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in April, became key ingredients of a $40 million project to replace 90 percent of fossil fuel consumed in the plant’s manufacturing process.
…Roskam, who presides at KABB in Wichita, said advanced farm machinery purchased with the grant wasn’t the type available at agricultural dealerships in Kansas. Techniques demonstrated in this “roll-out stage” are evolutionary, he said, but show promise.
“We’re monitoring the performance,” Roskam said. “It’s to demonstrate how to do things differently.”
McNinch, of Midwest Plains Energy, said modifications to the ethanol plant producing 50 million gallons each year would move the ball on renewable energy and served as a vehicle of economic development in the region.
The project employed 100 construction workers and operation of the plant is expected to create 15 full-time jobs, he said. Western Plains Energy is partnering with two firms on construction of new housing in Oakley, he said.
In addition to providing fuel at the ethanol facility and trimming greenhouse gas production, McNinch said the biofuel process would render manure from a nearby 45,000-head feedlot into fertilizer.
“We’ll be keeping some nasty stuff out of the environment,” McNinch said. READ MORE