USDA supports Western Plains Energy biogas project

Apr 13, 2012
by WLJ

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on April 9 the USDA approval of a $5 million payment to Western Plains Energy LLC to support the construction of a biogas anaerobic digester in Oakley, KS. The completed project will utilize waste energy resources from a local cattle feedlot to replace almost 90 percent of the fossil fuels currently used by Western Plains Energy. The funding of this project is expected to create 15 full-time positions and almost 100 additional construction opportunities.

“For the first time in 13 years, imported oil accounts for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America. That is because we are producing more domestically, using more alternative fuels, and using less energy through energy efficiency efforts,” said Vilsack.

Western Plains Energy expects to complete construction of the biogas digester in August. It is scheduled to become fully operational in 2013. The digester is expected to produce enough biogas to replace 89 percent of the fossil fuel that Western Plains currently uses to provide process heat at its Oakley ethanol plant, which produces 50 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Animal waste from a local feedlot will be the primary feedstock that Western Plains will use for the digester. It also will use grain dust as well as waste from a variety of industrial food and municipal facilities. Western Plains expects to be able to produce more than 100 million Btu of renewable energy per hour daily.

The announcement was made under USDA Rural Development’s Repowering Assistance Program. This program was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. It allows USDA to make payments to eligible biorefineries to encourage the use of renewable biomass as a replacement fuel source for fossil fuels used to provide process heat or power in the operation of these eligible biorefineries. Biorefineries that were in existence when the bill was enacted, June 18, 2008, are eligible to apply. For more information, visit eringAssistance.html.

USDA, through its rural development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of employees in the nation’s capital and state and local offices. Rural development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. These loans and loan guarantees are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers, and improve the quality of life in rural America. — WLJ