First U.S.-based cellulosic ethanol plant to be built in Kansas
Abengoa Bioenergy has chosen the town of Hugoton in southwestern Kansas as the site of the first U.S. plant to turn crop residue and other vegetation into ethanol. The company will formally announce the $300-million project, which will also include a traditional corn-to-ethanol plant, on Aug. 23.
The traditional plant is expected to produce 85 million gallons a year. The other will produce about 30 million gallons from cellulose.
Cellulose, the main ingredient in a plant’s cell walls, is the world’s most common organic compound. New technology will be used to convert cellulose from “corn stover” — cobs, leaves, stalks and husks — and other sources into ethanol.
Environmentalists say cellulose provides a cleaner, more efficient source of fuel than corn ethanol. It is also seen as a way to ease concerns about adequate grain supplies for ethanol production.
The Hugoton project will be funded in part by a $76 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. In February, the DOE awarded up to $385 million in grants to six companies, including Abengoa, to help develop the first cellulosic ethanol plants. Other plants are slated to be built in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho and California.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has projected that the new ethanol complex will add 120 jobs and $145 million to the state’s economy.
Abengoa Bioenergy is based in Sevilla, Spain. Its North American division, Abengoa Bioenergy Corp., is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.
Abengoa operates ethanol plants at Colwich (Kansas), Portales (New Mexico) and York (Nebraska). It currently works on the expansion of the Colwich plant and on the completion of a fourth plant, also in Nebraska (Ravenna).
Finally, it is expanding from St. Louis into the neighboring city of Madison, Illinois, with the development of a $200 million ethanol plant. When the plant is completed in 2009, it will employ 50 to 60 people and produce up to 88 million gallons of ethanol each year.
To complete its global reach, the company has also recently expanded its activities to another major player in ethanol, Brazil. It has signed an agreement to buy one of the major companies in the Brazilian ethanol and sugar market, Dedini Agro, for 297 million US dollars.