Vilsack announces $5 million grant to support animal waste to bioenergy project

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

OAKLEY, KS, April 9 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack headed to Kansas on Monday and brought a big check along to support a project designed to turn animal waste into energy.

Stopping in Oakley, KS. yesterday while on his way to deliver the Landon Lecture at Kansas State University today, Vilsack announced USDA approval of a $5 million payment to Western Plains Energy, LLC.

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Funds will be used 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% of the fossil fuels currently used by Western Plains Energy, according to USDA's Rural Development mission area.  

“For the first time in 13 years, imported oil accounts for less than 50% 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 funding of this project is expected to create 15 full-time positions and almost 100 additional construction opportunities.

The digester is expected to produce enough biogas to replace 89% of the fossil fuel that Western Plains currently uses to provide process heat at its Oakley, KS, ethanol plant, which produces 50 million gallons of ethanol annually.

In addition to animal waste, the plant 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 Btus of renewable energy per hour daily.

The grant was made under USDA Rural Devlopment'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.

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