The group that announced construction of up to three biogas plants in eastern Audrain County addressed public concerns over potential odors and the direction of tax revenue from the plants, saying there will be no manure smell and tax money will stay in eastern Audrain County, according to East Central Missouri Biogas Group LLC.
Those interested in investing in the plants will have a chance to learn more about them Monday. The biogas group, in a partnership with North Carolina-based Green Energy Sustainable Solutions International will hold an investor meeting and dinner, by reservation, 6 p.m. at the First Baptist Church hall in Laddonia.
Those planning to attend should email email@example.com with a subject of “Biogas Meeting.” A large turnout is expected. Those interested can contact the Andrew S. Garnett Law Office at 573-582-7968.
The biogas group visited similar plants in Europe last year, said Chris Bohr, group treasurer. Bohr said they are essentially self-contained units, with manure coming in through pipelines and stored in tanks. The gas-making process is contained as well.
The plant itself will give added value to the county, he said. “We think this will be very positive for the community. It will create about 21-22 jobs per plant and we think the average pay is going to be somewhere around $50,000,” he said.
On top of the nearly 66 total jobs for the proposed plants, it has the potential knock-on effect of job creation in other areas, such as drivers or individuals to lay the resultant fertilizer product, Bohr said. Expected tax revenues will mostly go to the Community R-6 School District, he said.
Construction on the Audrain County plants is expected to start in the coming weeks, he said.
“There are about 160 (plants) in Europe in operation. … We’re going to be bringing these plants basically to the Laddonia area,” Bohr said.
The Laddonia-area plants will be larger than those in Europe. Each operation is expected to annually produce 500 million BTU through a combination of 170,000 tons of swine manure and 80,000 tons of biomass, which is plant material from row crops.
This mixture for the digestion process is approximately 60 percent manure, 30 percent of a wet cake byproduct from POET Biorefining in Laddonia, which transforms corn into ethanol, and 10 percent of a biomass product, either sorghum or triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye.
The sorghum and triticale will both be used, but on a six-month rotation. “Between those two crops, they’ll produce about 32 tons to the acre per year,” Bohr said.
The plants will function similarly to the ruminant stomach of a cow, he said. Material is put into the digesters — the manure and other organic material — to create natural gas. The process removes odor from the gas, Bohr said.
“The natural gas itself will go to the (West) coast, to California and to Oregon,” he said. “It will be injected into the pipelines there at Laddonia.”
Legislation in California requires renewable energy sources, and solar and wind energy only contributes about 75 percent of the state’s needs, Bohr said. “That other 25 percent is going to have to come from (another) renewable energy source,” he said.
Pork producers within a five-mile radius of the plant will have pipelines from their operations to the plant’s storage tanks. Producers outside that radius will deliver manure to the plant via tanker, Bohr said.
“The digestate that comes back out of the plants... is basically like (a) fertilizer product. It has the (Phosphorus) and the (Potassium) in it, the fertilizer nutrients,” he said.
The resultant byproduct of the digestion process will not have a manure smell and will have a mulch-like appearance, Bohr said. If anything, it will smell of corn silage when all together, he said, and when spread out on land will have no smell.
“As a producer, knowing the end product is basically going to have no odor… that tickles me to death,” Bohr said. “When I go to put that on, I’m not just limited to putting it on my own ground. It gives you an opportunity for other farmers to purchase that from us as well, and put an organic fertilizer back on the ground.”
The digestate will be applied back to the sorghum and triticale crops as fertilizer to create a cyclical process of plant growth, digestion, fertilization and plant growth. The wet cake, and other biomass products also will be pressed to remove excess water, and that clean water product will go into a retention pond and irrigation system for the fields.
“As you can see it’s a very cyclical process. … Everything pretty much that is going in is coming back out and reused again,” Bohr said.
The energy service company GESS came to pork producers and cattle farmers with the idea of building biogas plants in Missouri, he said. East Central Missouri Biogas Group will have an ownership stake in the GESS plants.
“GESS International has been in the renewable energy business for 31 years. … The plants themselves will be powered off of solar energy. Not totally, but a large portion of the energy produced will be solar to power the plants,” Bohr said.