HUGOTON, Kansas – Kansas is now home to a cellolosic ethanol plant. The facility takes unused agriculture resources from the region and turns it into ethanol, creating one of the most sustainable types of fuel we have today.
Abengoa, a Spanish company, opened their cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton on Friday morning.
“Thank you for picking Hugoton to put your facility here. We hope it is a long profitable partnership that Abengoa has here in southwest Kansas,” said Jack Rowden, Mayor of Hugoton.
Abengoa is a multinational corporation based in Spain that has its hands in a lot of different sustainable energy technologies.
The plant brings 76 full-time jobs to the small town along with an annual payroll of about $5 million.
“It’s very exciting to see. You’re getting talent moving to the area and moving back in, people moving back home,” said Gov. Sam Brownback.
But what exactly is cellulosic ethanol, and what does it mean for the state and the environment?
“Well one, it doesn’t take away the corn from your feed stock, and secondly it’s completely sustainable,” Abengoa process engineer, Kevin Gross.
The process starts with biomass. The biomass is made out of crop residue from corn and wheat harvests. So instead of taking oil out of the ground, they’re taking what we already have plenty of in Kansas and turning it into ethanol.
They don’t take any of the edible kernels or grain, so they’re making a sustainable fuel source without impacting agriculture or food.
Abengoa also buys the biomass from local farmers.
“We are collecting primarily within a 50 mile radius, but sometimes we’re reaching out as far as a hundred miles from Hugoton,” said Abengoa plant manager, Danny Allison.
The plant will also produce its own electricity, and actually put some power back into the grid.
Compared to petroleum-based fuels, cellulosic fuel reduces greenhouse emissions by more than 90%.
“The promise of a sustainable and domestic energy is not elusive or imaginary, not anymore,” said Manuel Sanchez, CEO of Abengoa.
In addition to ethanol and biorefineries, Abengoa invests research in concentrated solar power and de-salination.
Abengoa generates about $10 billion in revenue each year.