Ethanol projects receive Colorado grants

By Ryan C. Christiansen | January 03, 2009
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 10:40 a.m. CST

The Colorado Agricultural Value Added Development Board of the Colorado Department of Agriculture has awarded $200,000 in Advancing Colorado's Renewable Energy (ACRE) grants to organizations for ethanol-related projects.

Feedlot Biofuel LLC of Wichita, Kan., received $25,000 to assess the feasibility of establishing ethanol plants at feedlots in east-central and southeastern Colorado. According to Bowe Wingerd, manager of Feedlot Biofuel, the company has designed an ethanol plant which has been optimized to produce wet distillers grains with solubles that caters to the nutritional needs of cattle.

"It's a unique design and it produces higher-quality distillers grain while using less energy and reduced capital costs," Wingerd said. "It's designed to be located near cattle feedlots. There are some great synergies between ethanol production and cattle feeding."

Wingerd, who said he has 18 years experience in ethanol plant design, said that instead of building a large ethanol plant near its corn feedstock and then shipping large quantities of distillers dried grains with soluble elsewhere, Feedlot Biofuel plans to build smaller ethanol plants adjacent to feedlots. "We're taking a different approach," he said. "It's a paradigm shift." Wingerd said a typical corn-fed and grain sorghum-fed feedlot ethanol plant might produce 20 MMgy of ethanol. He expects the feasibility study will be completed by this fall.

Another $25,000 grant was awarded to KL Energy Corp. of Rapid City, S.D., to study the feasibility of collocating a 5 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant with the Confluence Energy wood pellet production facility in Kremmling, Colo., which came on line in April 2008. The facility manufactures pellets from beetle-killed Ponderosa pine. Pending the feasibility study and financing, the ethanol plant is expected to come on line by the spring of 2010, according to Aaron Broten, project manager for KL Energy Corp.

Broten said the ethanol plant will also use beetle-killed timber as its feedstock. KL Energy's cellulosic ethanol production process uses a thermo-mechanical pretreatment followed by enzymatic hydrolysis to prepare the woody biomass for fermentation. Because the process doesn't use a harsh acid pretreatment, Broten said the process results in a clean lignin byproduct, which will be mixed with additional unprocessed beetle-killed timber wood chips for pelletizing. He said the result is a plant that will produce ethanol and also wood pellets that have 20 to 30 percent more British thermal units per pound than wood pellets without the added lignin.

Broten said both KL Energy and Confluence Energy will be partner owners in the venture.

The Colorado Corn Growers Association based in Greeley, Colo., received a $100,000 project participation grant to assist in developing an E85 flexible fuel pump infrastructure in rural Colorado. According to Katrina Davis, spokesperson for the CCGA, a feasibility study already has been completed to identify locations for the retail fuel pumps. She said the grant will help retailers pay for installing the E85 pumps. Under the program, three to five new fueling stations are expected to have the pumps installed during 2009.

A $50,000 research grant has been awarded to the Colorado State University Golden Plains Area Extension Service to evaluate how energy crops should be rotated on northeastern Colorado dryland farms.

"What we're trying to do is take the potential renewable energy crops—whether its biodiesel, ethanol, or cellulosic sources—and see how they fit into a cropping sequence," said Alan Helm, area extension agent for CSU. "Which crops follow which best? Which crops don't follow? If we start growing some of these alternative-type crops… where do they fit into our cropping systems?"

Helm said dryland corn, grain sorghum, forage sorghums, and winter wheat will be rotated with canola, camelina, sunflower, and other crops at the Central Great Plains Research Station to determine how well the crops grow in sequence. "Every crop will be planted into every residue," he said. Helm said the ACRE grant covers the first two years of the project, but additional grants will be sought to extend the project for an additional three to four years.