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Posted on: September 9, 2011

Department of Commerce announces energy projects for Kansas

The Kansas Department of Commerce announced today that it will oversee $20.5 million to be invested in two projects intended to increase energy efficiency and spur economic development in the state. The projects – one to increase biomethane production, and the other to improve the harvesting and delivery of biomass products – will use unspent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds appropriated to the Kansas Corporation Commission’s Energy Division.

The funds were reallocated to the Department for investment in these projects to insure the funding would remain in the state. Unspent ARRA funds were required to go back to the federal government by April 1, 2012.

“Our administration is very focused on ensuring that Kansas is a national leader in renewable energy, and these worthy projects represent areas that can advance the industry, provide for a cleaner environment, grow the Kansas economy and create much needed jobs,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “I look forward to the success of these projects.”

Kansas Secretary of Commerce Pat George said the biomethane production project would position Kansas at the very cutting edge of advance renewable bio-fuels production, while the biomass supply chain project would help solve a major logistical bottleneck for cellulosic renewable fuel production.

“These projects can have a significant beneficial impact on their sectors,” George added. “Kansas leads the nation in sorghum production and feedlot cattle production, and the biomethane project integrates two agricultural sectors to produce an advanced, renewable bio-fuel that will help reduce foreign oil dependence and completely replaces fossil fuels in the production of bio-fuels at the Oakley facility.

“The supply chain project will demonstrate a solution to the bottleneck problem and could result in a reduction by 50 percent of diesel fuel consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions in the harvesting and transportation of bio-mass for bio-fuel or renewable electricity production.”

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) oversaw the approval of both projects with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. DOE originally approved a third project, which would have installed flex-pumps for alternative fuel blends at a retail gas station chain in Wichita, but the company decided not to pursue the project because of uncertain regulatory requirements not related to ARRA funding.

“Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s leadership and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s support enabled Kansas to complete this reallocation in a timely manner and ensures the efficient use of these funds,” Brownback said.

About $1.5 million of the funding originally slated for the alternative fuel project will be used by the KCC’s Energy Division.

Biomethane Production Project (more than $15.6 million)

The state will invest almost $15.6 million for the purchase of biomethane digester equipment technology at an ethanol facility operated by Western Plains Energy near Oakley. The company’s onsite power plant will be converted to use biomethane produced from cattle manure instead of natural gas to power the bio-fuel production process. The company will partner with Pioneer Feeders, also located near Oakley, to supply manure for the production of bio-methane to power the Western Plains facility.

Biomass Supply Chain Project (almost $4.9 million)

Kansas will invest $4.9 million to support a biomass harvesting, handling and delivery demonstration project. Funding will go to the Wichita-based Kansas Alliance for Biorefining and Bioenergy (KABB) to purchase advanced harvesting and transportation equipment to deliver a more efficient process for getting biomass feedstock to the plant. The plan is to deploy the equipment primarily in the northeast and southwest parts of the state.

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