Waste not: Out of the landfill and into the gas pump


WOOSTER, Ohio – Ever wonder where all the grass clippings go once the village or city collects them from the curb?

What about leaves? Tree trimmings? Waste packaging?

And what about perfume that’s outdated?

Wooster entrepreneur Don Bogner wants to turn it into ethanol.

New industry. Bogner is banking on the birth of a new industry – the biomass-to-ethanol technology.

The genesis of this industry spurred his company’s name, Genahol. He’s hoping the genesis of this technology will spur a solid waste revolution.

More than just corn. Typically, when we think of ethanol production, we think of corn. But other things can be used to produce ethanol, including food processing waste, paper pulp and other solid waste Bogner calls “green waste.”

This next generation of ethanol plants would reduce the amount of waste going into treatment plants and landfills and end up with a renewable fuel.

Bogner is hoping this biomass, or green waste, will play an important role in both energy generation and waste disposal for municipalities.

“I don’t say we’re an ethanol producer,” Bogner said. “We’re a trash-to-ethanol producer.”

Will it work? Genahol recently received a $65,000 grant from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio to study whether or not such an ethanol production plant could work on a portion of land that used to be a waste incinerator for the city of Columbus.

“The technology is there,” Bogner said. “The trick is that it’s never been done on a big scale.”

Ready for market. Genahol’s licensed process uses dilute acid hydrolysis in converting the cellulose to glucose. The resulting sugars are then fermented to ethanol and distilled.

Genahol has an exclusive license to use a patented process developed by a Montana State University professor to produce ethanol from municipal solid waste and green waste.

Biomass-to-ethanol technologies are still in the demonstration phase, but Bogner is convinced his process will be a commercial success.

Small talk. One of the reasons he believes his approach will work is that he’s not talking about a massive, hugely expensive, 50-million gallon ethanol plant.

His small unit facility plans would convert between 50 and 100 tons of green waste a day into 2 million gallons of ethanol annually. Its cost? Between $8 and $10 million.

“We don’t have to worry about being the biggest or best, we just want to pick up ADM’s crumbs,” laughed Bogner, referring to the national ethanol giant Archer Daniels Midland.

A larger design could convert 500 to 1,000 tons of paper and/or wood waste per day into 10 million gallons of ethanol annually. Bogner is pitching the plants to be located right at a landfill or recycling facility.

Now, instead of paying landfill tipping fees that range between $15 and $80 per ton, a town, a commercial business, a campus could reduce waste disposal costs and generate a usable product.

The amount of ethanol produced varies with the type of green waste input, but it ranges between 65 and 75 gallons per ton. Ethanol production costs are a ballpark 65 cents per gallon, which is 50 percent less than ethanol from conventional processing of corn, Genahol literature states.

“That’s the exciting part of this,” Bogner said. “We’re being watched very closely by cities and municipalities.”

Juggling other projects. Bogner is also exploring other green waste ethanol projects.

He has a special permit with the city of Phoenix, Ariz., to build a plant, but has no contract with the city’s solid waste disposal department. Phoenix sends roughly 1,200 tons of waste each day to local landfills.

With Arizona State University, Genehol-Arizona received a $62,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Western Regional Biomass Program to assess the waste-to-ethanol market in Arizona.

He recently spoke with Del Monte officials at a canning plant west of Chicago to use the food processing waste from the lima beans, green beans, corn and sweet peas processed there.

Closer to home, Bogner has spoken with Ohio State University and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center officials to move a small pilot plant from Bozeman, Mont., to Wooster and expand it to a larger commercial capacity.

He’s also thrown his hat into the ring as one of the final five participants in an Request for Proposals (RFP) for biomass ethanol production as a means to deal with cellulose waste in a California metropolitan area.

“These counties have no place to go with their waste,” Bogner said.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he added.

New environment. The social and political environment is ripe for discussing waste disposal options and alternative fuels, which wasn’t always the case.

“When I first got into it [ethanol], I couldn’t get the time of day,” Bogner said. “It was still a stepchild to gasoline.”

Not any more. The broadening ban on MTBE as a gasoline additive is pushing an ethanol revolution.

A national energy proposal in the works continues to support and stabilize ethanol production and is also preferential to biomass ethanol, Bogner said.

Even the latest farm bill includes a huge section on biomass and alternative fuel projects, particularly ethanol.

Get the details

n Genahol Inc.

346 Beall Ave.

P.O. Box 611

Wooster, OH 44691




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