A first of it’s kind renewable energy plant is under construction in northwest Iowa. Bison Renewable Energy of Minnesota broke ground Tuesday on a facility near Hull in Sioux County that will transform livestock manure into pipeline quality natural gas. Sioux Center Mayor Dennis Walstra says it’s an historic occasion for livestock producers in the region.
He says the best explanation of the technology of biogas anarobic digestion is "turning poop into profit." The company plans to contract with several livestock producers to supply manure, which will make up half the raw materials for the plant. The rest will come from other waste like animal fat from area industrial plants.
Bison Renewable Energy Chief Manager Steve Manders says the methane produced at the plant will be inserted into the nearby northern natural gas pipeline. "We’re simply bringing in what others call waste, we call it ag bio-solids," but Manders says it’s not in the open air, "everything’s sealed."
Ken Hessinius, with the Iowa DNR, says the environmental benefits of the process are many. He says burning methane made from manure and waste results in better air quality, rather than allowing the greenhouse gas to naturally escape into the atmosphere. In addition, Hessinius says the process captures nutrients that can be used for fertilizer, which are taken in by plants more quickly, reducing the chance for water pollution.
Construction is underway on the plant, which will feature 11 one million gallon tanks where the manure and food waste will be mixed. The plant is slated to open in December of 2008, creating 70 new jobs. Company officials say it’s the first of 20 such plants they hope to build nationwide.