Ears perk at word of $2 million Ohio ethanol awards


SALEM, Ohio – Supporters of ethanol production in Ohio are all ears after hearing the state will receive more than $2 million to help planned facilities become realities.

Five facilities in the state will share a cut of more than $21 million in federal renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement grants.

The grant program is part of the Bush administration’s overall effort to increase the nation’s energy independence.

Where they are. Harrison Ethanol, Harrison County; Central Ethanol, Perry County; and Pike Ethanol, Pike County, have been approved for $500,000 each to construct an ethanol plant integrated with anaerobic digester converting animal waste to gas and electricity.

Other Buckeye State applications selected for funding include Liquid Resources of Ohio in Medina County, $500,000; and AgriEnergy, Ltd. in Wood County, $43,612.

AgriEnergy will install a straw-burning furnace to heat a warehouse in Pemberville.

Novel approach. Liquid Resources is developing a facility near Medina that would convert flat soda pop, expired juices and stale beer into ethanol.

The company expects to close a deal soon on a 45,000-square-foot facility that, when running at full capacity, would employ 25-30 people, according to Timothy Curtiss, CEO of Liquid Resources.

How it works. Curtiss said the company will collect waste liquids rich in sugar or alcohol for conversion into ethanol from suppliers in a variety of industries, including production waste and cleaning solutions.

The method would eliminate the need for treatment of these liquids in landfills around the country.

A diverse list of customers already lined up include carbonated beverage manufacturers and major pharmaceutical companies.

The process uses the same equipment as regular corn-based ethanol production, including distillers and evaporators, Curtiss said.

Location, location. Medina, Ohio, is a prime location for this type of facility, Curtiss said.

“Typically when a company is dealing with transporting liquids, you limit yourself to about 500 miles,” he explained.

“That gets us to just west of Chicago, down into Kentucky and to the East Coast. We’ve got trucks and rails to get us there,” he said.

Perhaps one of the biggest pros to Liquid Resources’ method is using other people’s problems to create an in-demand product.

“It’s a real problem for manufacturers when retailers call and say ‘Get this off our shelves’ for whatever reason,” Curtiss said. “That’s exactly what we want.”

Byproducts of this process, which include aluminum, glass and plastic from bottles and cans, will be recycled, avoiding disposal in landfills.

For fuel. Liquids spilled, mixed incorrectly or mislabeled during production can also be used to make ethanol, he said.

“This is an intriguing method. It’s a real opportunity to make something useable out of waste. The economics of it are very attractive,” Curtiss said, noting the factory would be one of the lowest-cost producers of ethanol in the country.

The facility will have total capacity of 6 million gallons, all to be distributed through Cargill.

A big deal. Ethanol is sold nationwide as a high-octane fuel additive that delivers improved vehicle performance while reducing particulate emissions and improving air quality.

The market for ethanol is expanding rapidly, as 19 states have passed legislation banning the use of methyl tertiary butyl ethe, or MTBE.

The compound currently found in fuels is nonbiodegradable and a suspected carcinogen.

Leading the way. “We are happy to see so many renewable energy projects selected from Ohio. We hope Ohio will be a leader in developing renewable energy from our abundant agricultural products thus reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Randall Hunt.

There are roughly a dozen ethanol facilities in different stages of planning in Ohio. None are under construction.

“There’s lots of work done and [several are] proceeding down the road to groundbreaking within the next 12 months,” said Mike Wagner, executive director of the Ohio Corn Growers Association.

Wagner also said each of the proposed facilities have a strong possibility of fruition because of a tremendous amount of interest in ethanol in Ohio.

Wagner identified two drawbacks to production, including high prices of corn in the state compared with western Corn Belt prices, as well as incentives other states offer – around $2 million to $3 million per plant per year.

Federal initiative. The 2002 farm bill authorized the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements program.

Awards were made on a competitive basis for the purchase of renewable energy systems and to make energy improvements.

The state of Illinois will also receive $550,000 for ethanol facilities.

The balance of the $21 million in federal funds supports wind power, anaerobic digesters and solar applications.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)


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