By Rhonda McCurry
It was like a red carpet event for agriculture—only the color was orange.
The orange carpet was placed on gravel under a roundtop barn that would soon house bales of corn stover and wheat straw. The backdrop was a stage set with beakers of grain and liquids and a podium in the middle for the array of speakers and supporters of the groundbreaking effort. There was also a switch, set to the side so it could be brought out later when the U.S. secretary of energy would push the button to begin movement of the first cellulosic biorefinery in the U.S.
Abengoa Biomass Plant, Hugoton, Kansas, is the first of its kind as a commercial scale biorefinery and on Oct. 17, celebrated its start with a large crowd of farmers, media, fans and owners. The plant will provide jobs for 76 employees and contribute $5 million a year to the local economy. As it sits along U.S. Highway 83 looking tall, sparkly and new the plant offers a promise of opportunity—like a modern day Emerald City.
Abengoa Bioenery began construction of its biomass plant two years ago, choosing southwestern Kansas as the ideal location for its new technology. The 25 million-gallon plant is fueled completely with biomass from nearly 350,000 tons of corn stover and wheat straw annually. Abengoa-derived enzymes will transform field waste into a renewable fuel and plastic components. Javier Goroz Neira, Abengoa Bioenergy’s CEO, says the plant is only the first step in the company’s goal to revolutionize the biofuel industry.
“This facility is now starting production operations, showcasing the unique technology of Abengoa enzymes on a commercial scale,” Neira says. “This facility is key not only for cellulosic ethanol but most other new chemicals we will see in the future. 2014 is the year ethanol will prove to be viable and the technologies here have a bright future ahead.” [Read More]