Ethanol Plant Would Run on Methane Produced from Cattle Manure

A proposed ethanol plant near Mead, Neb., would use manure from a cattle feedlot to generate the energy needed to make the corn-based fuel.

A proposed ethanol plant near Mead, Neb., would use manure from a cattle feedlot to generate the energy needed to make the corn-based fuel.

Nebraska BioClean plans to build the facility about two miles south of Mead. It would produce about 20 million gallons of ethanol a year.

The company's plans include building a methane digester that, using manure, would generate steam needed to fuel the plant's boilers.

Company officials believe this would be the first project to use energy from a methane digester to power an ethanol facility. Nebraska BioClean holds a patent on designs combining the systems.

"What we're doing is combining technologies that have been done in the past," said Mark Kraeger, chief operating officer for Nebraska BioClean. "It will be the first time all those things have been tried together."


Mead Cattle Co. and its 30,000 or so cattle would supply manure for the project. The facility would use about 7 million bushels of corn to produce the ethanol, and the byproduct of wet, distilled grain would then feed the cattle.

The facility would cost about $28 million and employ about 30 people, Kraeger said.

While methane digesters are a known source of energy production, only recently have they become used in agriculture operations around the country. This fall, a Colfax County farmer began building a methane digester on his hog farm to produce electricity that would be sold to local utilities.

Nebraska BioClean has received a zoning change and conditional-use permits from Saunders County officials. George Burreson, Saunders County zoning administrator, said residents offered no opposition. Most people want to know when construction will begin, he said.

"After the discussion, everybody thought it was a great idea."

Saunders County Board Chairman Kenneth Kuncl said the county board also had received no complaints.

The county has approved a $380,000 community development block grant for Nebraska BioClean, though conditions of possible disbursement or repayment are not final. Depending on the success of the project, the county could waive any repayment.

The fact that the plant is a unique agricultural project appeals to local officials, Kuncl said.

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality received one letter signed by 13 people specifically asking for a public hearing on the project. The department will hold an informational session at 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of Nebraska Agricultural Research and Development Center, 1071 County Road G in Ithaca.

On Dec. 7, state officials will hold a public hearing on the facility's air-quality permit at 7 p.m. at the same location.

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News