A green light for ethanol plant

By Ashley Nietfeld, Dodge City Globe, March 10, 2007

District Judge Daniel Love ruled in the Ford County Commission's favor Friday afternoon in a lawsuit over a proposed ethanol plant east of Wright.

"I'm glad it's over," said Commissioner Terry Williams. "I'm just very pleased with it, and I always had confidence we did it without pulling the wool over anyone's eyes."

Love's ruling reaffirmed the resolution that the commissioners adopted when they granted a conditional use permit to Boothill Biofuels LLC for the construction of a 110 million-gallon ethanol plant one mile east of Wright.

"I'm very happy of the ruling," said Boothill Biofuels President Gary Harshberger. "All along we felt real confident in our positions and the position of the county."

Love granted the company the right to intervene in the lawsuit, enabling Boothill Biofuels to take part in the trial.

"I'm just happy that the judge ruled in our favor and we can proceed and have that cloud lifted," Harshberger said.

Boothill Biofuels' application for a conditional use permit was valid, according to the ruling, which said, "The conditional use application and related development plan documents are declared to be in compliance with the Ford County zoning regulations."

In the petition on appeal filed Jan. 16, the nine plaintiffs, all residents of Wright, claimed that the commissioners violated the county's zoning regulations when they adopted a resolution granting the conditional use permit. The plaintiffs argued that the unsigned application was invalid and the accompanying development plan was incomplete.

Although Lowell Brakey, paid consultant for the plaintiffs, was unavailable for comment on Friday afternoon, he said in a press release in January, "People were deprived of their rights as afforded them under the Constitution. These citizens are making every effort to overturn the county's decision on the basis of lack of due process."

While the trial took place, Boothill Biofuels agreed to not break ground on the site. However, the agreement did not slow down progress on the project.

"We're still on track. The only thing that it stopped was moving dirt," said Harshberger. "But there's so much other things that have to be done, and that didn't stop that at all."

Construction for the plant is expected to begin in June, with an anticipated start-up date in September 2008. The plant is expected to employ between 40 and 45 people and generate more than $400 million annually for the local economy.

Commission Chairman Kim Goodnight, Commissioner John Swayze and plaintiff Rodney Helfrich were unavailable for comment at press time Friday.

Reach Ashley Nietfeld at (620) 408-9931 or e-mail her at ashley.nietfeld@dodgeglobe.com.

Another ethanol plant proposed in Ford Co.

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, March 7, 2007

DODGE CITY - Another ethanol plant proposal is up for consideration by Ford County zoning authorities, even as an earlier plan put forth by a different developer remains hung up in litigation.

A subsidiary of the Dial Companies, which is based in Omaha, Neb., has proposed an ethanol plant with a capacity of 226.8 million gallons per year, which would be Kansas' largest, and a 60-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel complex.

The firm submitted its request for a conditional-use permit to build some four miles west of Dodge City last week, and the Ford County Zoning Board is set to consider it March 26.

Meanwhile, Boot Hill Biofuels faces a lawsuit in connection with its application to build near Wright, an unincorporated town some five miles east of Dodge City.

Last January, a group of Wright-area landowners sued the Ford County Commission for approving Boot Hill's plans, saying the firm didn't comply with all local zoning rules in seeking county permission.

Dave Wehner, who heads Dial Bio-Renewable Fuels, said his company jumped through all the required hoops in handling this latest proposal.

"We have filed according to the rules," Wehner said. "We played according to the book."

Dial's plans call for construction of Dial Ford County Bio-Renewable Fuels on a 66.8-acre plot south of U.S. 50 and north of the Arkansas River basin, just outside a 100-year floodplain.

Wehner said work would begin as soon as the county, the state and the feds provide all the necessary permits. First would come a 113.4 million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant followed by the biodiesel complex and a 113.4 million-gallon-per-year addition to the original ethanol facility.

"All I can say is we'll begin construction as soon as the permitting process allows us," Wehner said. The $550 million project, located amid farmland between 104 and 105 roads, would employ 70 to 80 when complete.

Plans filed with county zoning officials show that an access road would connect the facility into U.S. 50 at 106 Road. An overpass on the access road would let traffic in and out of the complex to avoid trains along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad line there.

The plant, meanwhile, would utilize "state-of-the-art technology to control smoke, dust, odor, gas and noise," the application says.

As per local regulations, Ford County zoning officials have first shot at such development plans. The Ford County Commission, however, would have final say on whether to grant Dial the necessary permits to build.

In the pending lawsuit, plaintiffs ask that the decision by Ford County commissioners to approve Boot Hill's application be voided. They say the application was deficient, while county and company officials maintain that proper protocol was followed and that the critics are picking away at technical points.

A final brief in the Boot Hill suit is due today, and Magistrate Judge Daniel Love is to rule soon after. Boot Hill's plans call for construction of a $185 million facility with a capacity of 110 million gallons a year.

Zoning board to consider proposal for ethanol, biodiesel plants

From Staff reports, The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 6, 2007

The Ford County Zoning Board will consider a proposal for an ethanol plant and a biodiesel plant at 7 p.m. March 26 in the Rose Room of the Ford County Government Center.

The Omaha, Neb.-based company Dial Resources is seeking a conditional use permit for the complex, which would be located on about 66.8 acres on the south side of U.S. Highway 50 between 104 and 106 roads. The complex would be divided into three phrases: An ethanol plant, a biodiesel plant and a project designed to double the capacity of the ethanol plant.

The complex would be owned by Dial Ford County Biorenewable Fuels LLC, which would have an office in Dodge City.

The ethanol plant would produce about 108 million gallons of the biofuel per year at first, and the biodiesel plant would generate about 60 million gallons, said Dave Wehner, president and managing partner of Dial Resources.

Doubling the ethanol plant's capacity would allow it to generate about 216 million gallons a year.

Wehner said the company may build the ethanol and biodiesel plants simultaneously, and they could be up and running sometime in 2008. He said the project would cost about $510 million altogether.

Dial Resources originally considered building an ethanol plant just outside the east city limits, but Wehner said the property was not large enough.

What Ethanol Plants mean to the Community

Residents fear ethanol projects will deplete supply; experts say it won't happen

By Ashley Nietfeld, The Dodge City Daily Globe, December 13, 2006

Ethanol production is rising quickly throughout the United States. More than 100 ethanol plants are up and running, with nearly as many under construction or in the planning stages.

Last year, ethanol plants produced nearly 4 billion gallons of ethanol, a 126 percent increase from 2001, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

With the introduction of nearly every new industry, people argue about how it will affect our economy and our environment. Ethanol is no different.

When Boothill Biofuels proposed building an ethanol plant in Wright, area residents worried about the impact it could have on the community. The conflict centers mainly on the potential impact on our environment, roads, crop production and water supply.

The Ford County Zoning board has recommended issuing a conditional use permit for the plant, and the Ford County Commission will decide Monday whether to follow that recommendation. All three commissioners must vote in favor of the permit for it to pass.

What will the plant do to the air quality?

Ethanol plants built within the last three years are required to have thermal oxidizers that eliminate 95 percent of the volatile organic compound gases emitted from the plant, said Ed Stahl, project manager for BBI international, a consulting firm for bioenergy and agricultural processing projects. The oxidizer will also help eliminate much of the odor from the production process.

However, many ethanol plants are switching from natural gas to coal as their primary energy source in an effort to cut costs associated with the rising price of natural gas.

"Coal smoke contains particles and gases that threaten the health of those who breathe them," according to Resources for the Future, an independent agency providing research to U.S. policy makers. "Coal is also a prolific source of carbon dioxide, the most important of greenhouse gases that cause global warming."

Although the Boothill Biofuels plant currently plans to use natural gas as its primary energy source, ICM Inc., the company contracted to build the plant, is one of the companies that is making the switch from natural gas to coal in many of its plants.

"If the biofuels industry is going to depend on coal, and these conversion plants release their carbon dioxide to the air, it could undo the global warming benefits of using ethanol," David Hawkins, climate director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., told the Christian Science Monitor earlier this year.

How will the ethanol plant affect our roads?

If the Boothill Biofuels plant is built in Ford County, traffic along U.S. Highway 50 will increase by at least 100 trucks to transport corn, milo and ethanol to and from the plant each day.

Approximately 1,000 vehicles use U.S. 50 each day, and many of them are semis, said Larry Thompson, southwest Kansas' district engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation.

When asked what the increase in truck traffic would do to the infrastructure of the road, Thompson said, "I would think (the damage) would be fairly insignificant."

Wright residents are concerned that the increased traffic from the ethanol plant would generate additional noise and dust.

"We already have a horrible dust and noise problem from the co-op," Wright resident Tim Slattery said at a Nov. 27 meeting of the Ford County Zoning Board, which conducted a public hearing on whether to recommend a conditional use permit for the plant.

He said increasing traffic by 100 trucks per day would only make the problem worse.

What ethanol plants do to the state's water supply?

Many Wright residents worry that the ethanol plant will deplete their water supply.

"The water supply here is very minimal," Wright resident Cathy Shean-Phillips of Wright said in an interview Tuesday. "I feel that within two years ... we'll be without water."

According to Gary Harshberger, president of Boothill Biofuels, the plant will utilize 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources does not allow new water rights to be given out in the areas of Kansas west of Stafford. All water rights in Ford County must be bought and sold, and the amount of water being used cannot be increased.

Harshberger has previously said when water is converted from agricultural to industrial use, the amount of water being used will decrease by 30 to 40 percent and approximately 25 percent would be returned to the ground.

Lisa Taylor, public information officer at the Division of Water Resources, said although the change from agricultural to industrial use could reduce the amount of water used by 40 percent, that amount is not guaranteed.

That also doesn't mean that the level of the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water to Ford County, won't continue to go down. Taylor said that recent droughts have prevented the aquifer from being replenished at the same rate that water is being used.

The Division of Water Resources also gave out too many water rights before it realized how much water was being used.

"More rights were granted before we knew the impact," Taylor said. "If we only knew then what we know now."

Can Kansas crops support the ethanol plants?

Because ethanol is produced from cellulosic biomass materials such as corn and milo, the most logical site for an ethanol plant is near those crops. As one of the leaders in the nation for corn and milo production, Kansas has become a hunting ground for ethanol producers. There is, however, some debate as to whether Kansas can continue to sustain the influx of ethanol plants.

Harshberger said a feasibility study for the proposed plant in Wright showed a surplus of 71 million bushels of grain is available within a 100-mile radius of the site. He also said 90 percent of the grain sorghum in Kansas is shipped out of state. Boothill Biofuels would be able to utilize that surplus and prevent Kansas crops from leaving the state.

At the Nov. 27 zoning board meeting, Wright resident Bryan Brauer said a study of southwest Kansas showed that the three proposed ethanol plants in the area, along with the average amount of grain used for cattle feed, would create a net shortage of 140 million bushels of grain.

"I guess I need to know where that 140 million bushels are going to come from," said Brauer. "This isn't a feasible place for the plant."

When asked if Kansas' farmers would continue to be able to support the influx of ethanol plants, Ray Hamlin, director of Agriculture Marketing and the Community Development Division of the Kansas Department of Commerce, said, "I think (Kansas) can probably support what's proposed now."

However, he said the future of plants will depend on the size of the plant and the amount of local grain available, as well as the company's ability to import from outside the area.

"At which time, particularly in the upper Midwest, you have competition between established plants for the local grain shed, so there may be a bidding up of grain between two or more plants. So, that's probably something people need to take into account in the future," Hamlin said.

Reach Ashley Nietfeld at (620) 408-9931 or e-mail her at ashley.nietfeld@dodgeglobe.com.

Plants' water use worries residents

Residents fear ethanol projects will deplete supply; experts say it won't happen

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, November 30, 2006

With ethanol projects popping up all over southwest Kansas, worries about underground water depletion have emerged as a key issue for many.

"I'm concerned about us losing water because if we lose water, everything will die out here," said Donna Koechner, a Wright resident who thinks a planned ethanol plant near her Ford County community ought to be moved to a wetter site.

Nonetheless, experts say the need for water by ethanol producers notwithstanding, the slew of companies eying southwest Kansas hardly portends a steep dip in the underground water supply. In fact, they'll use existing water rights since state law largely bans issuance of new rights in arid western Kansas and could end up consuming less than the original rights holders.

"I think there will be a little bit less use overall," said Gary Baker, a water consultant and Stevens County commissioner.

Beyond that, backers say ethanol is a more profitable use of the zone's water, more so than corn or other crops. And with a creeping economic letdown in some parts of southwest Kansas brought on by dwindling reserves in the Hugoton Gas Field, production of the biofuel offers a way to keep the zone's economy on an even keel.

"Overall, the ethanol plants are a real welcome, higher value use (of water) out here in southwest Kansas," said Mark Rude, head of Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District 3, which manages water resources in much of the zone.

Unending point of debate

Agriculture, meatpacking and other important industries here rely on a steady supply of water. But with reserves declining in the Ogallala Aquifer - the massive water table underlying parts of eight states, including Kansas - and rainfall here scarce, how best to use and conserve the commodity is an unending point of debate.

"The problems really haven't changed for the last 50 years," said Baker. "We've just been working them over and over."

Now come the various ethanol plant proposals, spurring the discussion that much more. Producing the corn- and milo-based fuel additive - seen as a way of reducing dependence on foreign oil and spurring the local economy - requires a ready water source to cool the grain "mash" as it ferments, becoming alcohol.

The water issue emerged as a big question mark for many living around the Seward County community of Hayne when plans for an ethanol plant there were disclosed over the summer.

Now, it has become a hot topic for some in Wright because of plans for another plant near there. A petition signed by more than 200 people in and around the tiny Ford County town asks that county commissioners deny plant developers permission to build, citing limited water availability, among other things. The topic also came up at a hearing on the matter Monday, though county zoning officials ultimately gave plant plans their nod of approval.

Despite the hubbub, water use by all southwest Kansas' proposed ethanol projects, let alone at the Seward County or Ford County sites by themselves, represents a tiny fraction of overall use in the zone.

A 100-million-gallon per year plant will typically use 1,600 acre-feet of water annually, according to Baker, about what's needed to douse 900 acres of western Kansas corn. The proposed southwest Kansas ethanol projects taken together - at least seven, with a collective annual production capacity of 730 million gallons of ethanol - would use 11,680 acre-feet of water.

By contrast, 1.77 million acre-feet in underground water was tapped in all of 2004 in southwest Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture. That means the seven plants, if all were built, would represent only about 0.7 percent of all water consumption in the zone.

250 years worth of water

Moreover, promoters emphasize that any water used by ethanol plants wouldn't be above and beyond what's currently used. Rather, the plants would convert the existing rights of ag producers and others, keeping overall consumption levels here steady, at least theoretically.

Baker thinks handing water rights over to ethanol producers might actually result in reduced use. That's because of "tight" state formulas outlining permissible water use when a water right is transferred from an agricultural user to an industrial one.

"For anybody to say this is going to be a detriment because of water, I can't buy that argument, I just can't," Baker said.

Though some portions of the Ogallala Aquifer under southwest Kansas have less than 25 years worth of water, others have more than 250 years worth, according to the Kansas Geological Survey.

Still, water experts say Ogallala Aquifer levels remain on a steadily declining trajectory in spite of efforts to keep use in check, and others agree.

For boosters to say ethanol plants are "not going to affect you is just them burying their heads in the sand," said Koechner, the Wright resident. "It's going to affect you."

Ethanol companies are within their rights in seeking out underground water, she acknowledges. Nevertheless, she questions whether continued use of the resource at current levels is wise over the long haul, a topic that actually transcends the actions of just ethanol producers.

"Is it smart to use (water supplies) at capacity, whether or not it's an irrigator, a meatpacking plant or whatever?" she asked. "... The bottom line that I see is we're taking more out of the aquifer than we should be and it's dropping."

Studies: Cities will benefit

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, November 30, 2006

Water use isn't the only measure of an ethanol plant's potential effect.

According to impact analyses done of project plans in Ford and Seward counties, for instance, the two complexes would collectively generate $32.4 million in new revenues over 10 years for local taxing entities. Tack onto that $79.3 million that the state government would generate.

By contrast, the cost to the impacted taxing entities would amount to $10.5 million, most of that attributable to tax abatements. The state would lose just $3.8 million.

Then there are the jobs. The Ford and Seward county plants, which Liberal-based Conestoga Energy Partners is helping develop, would each employ 45 to 55 workers, doling out $4 million per year in salaries. A smaller plant in Finney County, which Conestoga is also helping develop, would employ 33 to 40 workers, generating $1.4 million per year in pay.

Economic development officials in Ford and Seward counties completed the cost-benefit analyses to determine if granting property tax abatements for Conestoga's ethanol projects in each county would be worthwhile.

In Seward County, the analysis fixed the benefit - accounting for a 10-year abatement - at $13.3 million, with the money going to the city of Liberal, Seward County, Plains-Kismet USD 483, Seward County Community College and the Seward County Rural Fire Department. The state would generate another $50 million.

The tax break - sliding by 10 percentage points annually from 100 percent in year one to zero by year 11 - would cost the local entities $3.8 million and the state $62,000.

In Ford County, the study determined a benefit of $19.1 million, with the money going to Dodge City, Ford County, Dodge City USD 443, Dodge City Community College and Spearville Township. The state would generate another $29.3 million.

The tax break - figured the same as in Seward County - would cost the local entities $4.6 million and the state $48,000.

The benefits collectively come from franchise fees, additional school funding brought on by higher enrollment, and increased sales, property and income tax inflows, among other things.

Officials in Seward County have approved the tax break there, and plans are under way to build an ethanol plant near Hayne. Ford County leaders, meanwhile, still have to decide whether to grant the necessary permits before the project could move forward there. Then they would formally consider the abatement proposal.

Ford Co. ethanol plant one step closer to approval

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, November 28, 2006

DODGE CITY - Before a standing-room-only crowd, the Ford County Zoning Board on Monday recommended approval of a controversial plan to build an ethanol plant near the unincorporated town of Wright.

Now the proposal will go to the Ford County Commission for their consideration, probably on Dec. 18.

Both proponents and foes took the floor to address the issue, generating applause from their respective camps as they expressed their views. Around 240 in all attended, some spilling outside the Ford County Government Center meeting room, where the gathering was held.

Supporters noted that project developers are from Ford County and southwest Kansas and that the 110-million gallon per year plant would create jobs and boost demand for milo. The plant, located on the south side of U.S. 50 amid cropland a mile east of Wright, would employ 45 to 50 people and have an annual payroll of $2 million.

Farmers "are excited once again to grow a crop that can possibly make them some money," said Ron O'Hanlon, president of a Dodge City crop consulting firm.

Scott Fischer, a backer from Wright, expressed the need for more job opportunities here to prevent outmigration.

"I'd like to see us have some increased economic opportunities in this county," he said. "I'd like to see my kids have opportunity here and not export their abilities."

On the other side, critics expressed concern about the water the plant would need, about 1,650 acre-feet per year, the equivalent of seven or eight irrigated circles. They also sounded off against the increased traffic in Wright brought on by plant activity, some 100 to 200 more trucks per day, and noise at the Wright grain elevator.

"I believe in the future of Kansas and we do need ethanol plants, but this one will be in my backyard," said Allen Burkhart, a Wright resident. "There are other places you can build this thing."

Though the long-term viability of the zone's underground water supply topped many critics' list of concerns, Ed Stahl, a project consultant, said the principal supply would come from an area some 10 to 14 miles south of the plant site. At that location, he said, the underground water supply "should be strong for 100 years."

Plan critics, who submitted petitions with 229 names, had said they planned to file a formal protest against the project regardless of the zoning board's action, which would require a 3-0 vote of Ford County commissioners for the permit's ultimate approval. There was even talk Monday evening by foes of a court injunction to stall the project.

Liberal-based Conestoga Energy Partners, which is involved in ethanol plant projects in Finney and Seward counties, is helping develop the Ford County plans. If the project gets the green light, work could start by next June and be complete by September of 2008.

Plans for ethanol plant draw opposition from residents

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, November 25, 2006

WRIGHT - Plans to build an ethanol plant near here are drawing fire from some who worry about the potential long-term impact to the zone's underground water supply and the expected upsurge in truck traffic.

Rodney Helfrich, a farmer from Wright who's helping circulate petitions to stall the plans, says most people in the area - upward of 90 percent - oppose the project.

"We're not opposed to the ethanol industry. We're opposed to the site," he said.

A project representative, meanwhile, thinks a pair of public meetings last week in Wright outlining the plans went a long way in addressing the concerns and dispelling any misconceptions.

"I've seen nothing that would suggest there's widespread opposition," said Ed Stahl, a consultant who's helping develop Boot Hill Biofuels, the proposed 110-million-gallon per year plant to be built amid farmland a mile east of Wright. "In fact, we've heard so many positive comments."

He said anytime a new project readies to enter a community, "there's going to be significant interest." But Boot Hill officials are mindful of the attention and "will continue to be proactive in listening to and addressing any of the concerns the folks have."

Boot Hill's plans, complementing ethanol projects in Finney and Seward counties, call for construction of a $185 million complex that would employ 45 to 50 people and pay out around $2 million per year. The effort - lauded by many as an economic boon - is subject to review at a meeting Monday of the Ford County Zoning Board, which is considering a conditional use permit allowing the complex to go in.

But Helfrich and others already think the project should be stopped, and they say they plan to show up Monday to air their concerns.

Wright, a town of 100 to 150 located about 10 miles east of Dodge City, is unincorporated, thus Ford County officials have authority over zoning issues in the area.

mong the chief worries is water. The plant, whose board is made up of investors from Ford County and elsewhere in southwest Kansas, would require 1,650 acre feet of water per year, or about 540 million gallons.

Helfrich says Ford County is already a "water-deficit area" and worries the plant will speed up depletion of the underground aquifer. Long term, he sees the company buying more and more water rights, minimizing farmers' access that much more.

Stahl, however, says the ethanol plant, as an industrial operation, will only be able to use 60 to 70 percent of the water at its wells that an ag user could. Moreover, at current use levels, he said there's a 100-year supply under the ground.

Another concern for critics is the traffic the plant would generate, up to 200 trucks per day. Some would haul out distiller's grain, a byproduct in the ethanol production process, while others would load up with the grain necessary to make the fuel additive from the elevator in Wright.

"It's just going to make it more hazardous for kids, old people, who live there," Helfrich said. "The quality of living isn't too good when you have semis going by your house or dust in the air."

Stahl said Boot Hill officials are looking at ways of routing traffic to minimize impact to Wright residents. Moreover, upgrades to nearby U.S. 50 are likely.

Some of the foes' other concerns include the possible decline in landowners' property values and the potential burden to township authorities in increased road maintenance costs. Also, they say the plant will increase competition with the zone's thriving cattle industry for water and grain.

Plans to build an ethanol plant near the unincorporated Seward County town of Hayne drew the ire of locals there. They petitioned to stall the project, but Seward County commissioners granted developers the requisite permit, allowing the proposal to go forward.

The Ford County plant would be managed by Liberal-based Conestoga Energy Partners, which also will manage the Hayne complex and another under construction in Finney County.

Boot Hill reps discuss proposed plant with Wright residents

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, November 15, 2006

WRIGHT - A proposed ethanol plant near here would create little noise or odor and generate minimal emissions, though it would likely lead to increased truck traffic, project boosters said at a gathering Tuesday.

A group of area farmers and other investors have teamed up under the banner Boot Hill Biofuels to build a 110 million gallon per year ethanol plant off U.S. 50 amid farmland a mile east of Wright, an unincorporated Ford County hamlet. They are still seeking the required permits, but as part of the process, they met with locals Tuesday to provide details about the planned $185 million ethanol plant and address any potential concerns.

"They're new residents to your community and they raise questions," said Ed Stahl of BBI International, a Colorado consulting firm that is assisting in the process.

Among other things, Stahl said odor ought to be minimal because Boot Hill plans to sell any distiller's grain, a byproduct in ethanol production that serves as cattle feed, wet. Even if the substance is dried, which, when untreated, results in a more detectable odor, a thermal oxidizer will be employed to incinerate any exhaust, keeping the smell potential minimal.

The noise level at the fence line of the plant will be about 80 decibels, the equivalent of a hair dryer.

The plant will use 1,000 gallons of water a minute or about 1,650 acre feet per year, the equivalent of what it takes to irrigate seven or eight circles of farmland. The water rights come from area farmers and the wet stuff will mainly come from the Ogallala Aquifer.

The plant would be a "minor source emitter" as opposed to a "major source emitter," Stahl said, with most exhaust being steam.

Trucks and trains would bring in the corn and sorghum used to make the ethanol, a fuel additive, and they would also carry out distiller's grain and the finished product, resulting in much more traffic. At most, Stahl estimated up to 200 more trucks per day coming in and out of the plant, though project boosters say turning lanes are likely along U.S. 50 to accommodate the increased flow.

Boot Hill representatives, who say the plant will be an economic boon to the area, plan to meet again today in Wright for locals who didn't make Tuesday's gathering. Meanwhile, the Ford County Zoning Board has scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 27 to consider Boot Hill's request for a conditional use permit since the plant would be built on farmland.

Among the 10 Boot Hill board members are Gary Harshberger, a Ford County farmer who serves as president, and Bruce Baldwin, the vice president and operator of a Finney County implement dealership. Others include Larry Powell of Garden City, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives; Brian Winter, a member of the Dodge City USD 443 school board and operator of a livestock house; and Jim Coffin, owner of a Dodge City construction firm.

If Boot Hill gets the requisite permits, construction would start by next June and be done by September 2008. Managing the ethanol plant would be Conestoga Energy Partners of Liberal, which will also manage plants under construction in Seward and Finney counties.

County to apply for grant for the construction of ethanol plant

By Ashley Nietfeld, The Dodge City Globe, November 14, 2006

Ford County Commissioners unanimously passed a motion to apply for a $750,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing for the building of an ethanol plant at a public hearing Monday morning.

According to Patty Richardson, executive director of Great Plains Development, Inc., the total cost of the project is estimated to be $192,003,250 for the 110 million gallon ethanol plant.

Richardson said that the Community Development Block Grant would be processed through Ford County. Through the infrastructure of the grant, half will be given to the county, and the other half will have to be repaid back to the state of Kansas. Through an agreement with the county and Boot Hill Biofuels, Boot Hill Biofuels will repay the state the amount of $375,000.

Because the application much come from either the city or the county, Ford County must co-sign on the grant in order to receive it. The county will then access Boot Hill Biofuels, LLC, for the amount of $750,000. The purpose of the grant is to help the company develop a water program to meet the water requirements of the plant, and supply water throughout the region as needed. Deadline for the application is Dec. 1.

Joann Knight, vice president of the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corp., said, "This is a tool that can help businesses to expand in Ford County, and we would greatly appreciate your support in helping us to see this through."

"I'm really excited about it," said Commissioner Terry Williams. Williams said the plant would be beneficial by creating growth within the county and providing more jobs to community members.

There were three guests at the hearing who were opposed to the plant, however, they declined to comment both during the hearing and after, saying they would like to collect more information before lodging a complaint.

The ethanol plant will create 38 jobs within the community. Boot Hill Biofuels plans to build the plant on the east side of 119 Road between U.S. Highway 50/56 and Jewell Road. The design and construction of the plant will be done by ICM.

Boot Hill Biofuels president Gary Harshberger has said construction is aimed to start between April and July 2007. The plant should be running by September 2008.

The Ford County Zoning Board will hold a meeting to discuss the request for a conditional use permit and development plan at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 in the Rose Room of the Ford County Government Center.

Reach Ashley Nietfeld at (620) 408-9931 or e-mail her at ashley.nietfeld@dodgeglobe.com.

Plan for ethanol plant doubled

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, November 14, 2006

DODGE CITY - A Nebraska firm planning to build an ethanol plant in Ford County now envisions a 200 million gallon per year facility, complemented by a biodiesel complex.

Dave Wehner of Omaha, Neb.-based Dial Resources was in Dodge City on Monday for the public hearing on Boot Hill Biofuel's plans to seek $750,000 in grants to help build a 110 million gallon ethanol plant near Wright. He didn't address the gathering, but said afterward that he attended because the topic is germane to Dial's plans.

Dial announced last August it planned to build a 100 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Ford County. Now, the proposal has expanded into a 200 million gallon capacity - which would be the state's largest - accompanied by a 30 million gallon per year biodiesel complex, Wehner said.

Having an ethanol and bio-diesel plant next door to each other offers the chance for "significant" synergies, Wehner said, adding that Boot Hill's plans would have no impact on Dial's proposal. Wehner wouldn't provide any more particulars, saying the company is waiting until it formally seeks the relevant zoning and building permits.

Meanwhile, Ford County officials indicated Monday that they are willing to sponsor Boot Hill's application for $750,000 in state Community Development Block Grant funds, but that they won't take the requisite action until later this month. If approved, the funds - half in the form of a grant, half in the form of a low-interest loan - would help build up the water and road infrastructure at the Boot Hill site.

Liberal-based Conestoga Energy Partners, which is involved in ethanol projects in Seward and Finney counties, is helping develop the Boot Hill project. Papers filed with Ford County zoning officials list the Boot Hill owners as Mark Fischer and Arthur Scroggins, both of Dodge City, and Patricia Nicholas of Wichita.

Company announces plans to build ethanol plant near Wright

By Eric Swanson, Dodge City Globe, November 7, 2006

The Liberal-based company Boot Hill Biofuels plans to build an ethanol plant capable of generating at least 110 million gallons of the biofuel one mile east of Wright, the group announced during Monday's meeting of the Ford County Commission.

Commission Chairman Kim Goodnight said the ethanol plant would be a good opportunity for Ford County, although the company will have to address the plant's impact on the local water supply.

"There's one in Seward County, one in Finney County and they're all going to be coordinated together," he said Monday afternoon. "That's another thing that I see as being something positive. Where normally you would think that we'd be in competition with some of these other plants, they'll actually be working together on purchases of grain and other things."

Boot Hill Biofuels is a partner with the Seward County-based group Conestoga Energy Partners, which announced plans earlier this year to build an ethanol plant somewhere in Ford County.

The company plans to build the plant on the east side of 119 Road, south of the right of way of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad between U.S. Highway 50/56 and Jewell Road. The Colwich-based company engineering and construction management company ICM, which specializes in ethanol plants, will design and build the plant.

Construction is expected to cost between $185 million and $195 million and will start sometime between April and July 2007, and the plant should be up and running by August or September 2008, said Boot Hill Biofuels President Gary Harshberger.

He said the completed plant will employ between 40 and 45 people with an estimated payroll of $2 million, and it will produce at least 110 million gallons of ethanol each year.

"With our direct employment and the indirect employment, there is an estimation of about 1,600 additional jobs affiliated with a plant of 100 million gallons in size," Harshberger said. "That has a total economic impact of $400 million to the region."

He said a feasibility study indicated that the site near Wright would be the best location for an ethanol plant because it would be close to a grain source, water and transportation.

Joann Knight, vice president of the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corp., said the plant is one of the largest economic development projects to come to Ford County in several years.

"We're excited to be working with them and looking forward to them continuing their progress on this project in Ford County," she said.

Boot Hill Biofuels will apply to the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing for a $750,000 community development block grant, which will help the company work with the county in developing a water program.

Harshberger said the program would meet the plant's need for water, and it could eventually help the county supply water throughout the region as the need arises.

The commission will conduct a public hearing on the grant application at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the commission chambers, and the Ford County Zoning Board will consider the company's request for a conditional use permit and development plan at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 in the Rose Room of the Ford County Government Center.

Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.

Ford Co. location, timeline finalized for ethanol plant

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, November 7, 2006

An agricultural plot east of Wright has been earmarked as the next possible site in southwest Kansas for ethanol plant development.

Officials from Boot Hill Biofuels revealed Monday that they hope to build the 110-million-gallon per year complex about a mile east of the unincorporated Ford County town and that work should start by next June. When done, probably by September 2008, the $185 million plant would employ about 45 people and have an annual payroll of $2 million.

"This is going to be a good shot in the arm for anyone involved in agriculture," said Gary Harshberger, a Ford County farmer and the Boot Hill president.

Liberal-based Conestoga Energy Partners, which is involved in ethanol plant projects in Seward and Finney counties, also is helping develop the Ford County plans. All told, the three southwest Kansas facilities would produce 275 million gallons of the corn- and sorghum-based fuel additive per year, easily surpassing the 215.5 million gallons overall now manufactured in the state.

Still, investment details for the Ford County plant have yet to be worked out, though Harshberger says boosters plan for it to be locally owned.

Conestoga first announced last August that it was helping develop an ethanol project in Ford County, and many locals couldn't be happier.

"It is probably one of the biggest economic development projects that has gone in Ford County for years," said Joann Knight, vice president of the Ford County Development Corp. Gene Durler, a Ford County farmer who lives near the proposed site about 10 miles east of Dodge City, touts the higher grain prices he hopes a new plant will bring.

Nonetheless, hurdles remain. A public hearing is set for Nov. 13 on Boot Hill's plans to seek $750,000 in grant funding from the Kansas Department of Commerce to help develop roads and water infrastructure around the plant. And the Ford County Zoning Board is to meet Nov. 27 to consider the developer's permit request to carry out industrial operations on agricultural land.

"It seems to be a great thing for the county, but there's always going to be some contention involved," said Ford County Commissioner Kim Goodnight, who's heard from plan boosters and even a critic.

Boot Hill Biofuels would be located south of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line that parallels the south side of U.S. 50, between 119 and 120 roads. Some 140 to 230 trucks would travel in and out of the new complex per day, and developers plan to complete a traffic study to determine what sort of changes would be necessary on U.S. 50 to accommodate the heightened flow.

Water rights would come from the agricultural sector, though limits on what industrial users may use compared to farmers would prevent increased depletion of area water supplies.

When complete, Conestoga Energy will manage the plants in Ford, Seward and Finney counties, seeking out ethanol markets, procuring inputs and handling other duties.

Work on the Finney County plant, Bonanza Bioenergy, started last May just outside Garden City and should be finished next August. Work on the Seward County plant, Arkalon Energy, started last August near the unincorporated town of Hayne and is to be done in early 2008.

Another ethanol plant could be built in Ford County

Team of investors announces its plans, eyes several locations

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, August 11, 2006

Another ethanol developer is planning to build a plant in Ford County, though the specific location still must be pinned down.

Liberal-based Conestoga Energy Partners and Ethanol Energy, made up of investors from around southwest Kansas, said this week they intend to build a 110 million gallon per year plant starting in late 2007 or early 2008. The revelation comes on the heels of last Friday's announcement by Omaha, Neb.-based Dial Energy that it plans to build a 100 million gallon per year plant on the eastern outskirts of Dodge City.

Conestoga, which also is helping develop ethanol projects in Seward and Finney counties, and Ethanol Energy had been pursuing ethanol projects here separately. But Bruce Baldwin, an Ethanol Energy board member, said the two entities joined forces earlier this summer.

"I think our success will be greater in the long run as a united force," he said.

Ethanol Energy, which earlier had mulled a project in Hodgeman County, more recently has been eyeing a site adjacent to Ensign in western Ford County. Conestoga, meanwhile, has been looking elsewhere, and the new partnership still must reach consensus on a location.

"We're looking at several locations in Ford County," said Ed Stahl, a Conestoga adviser.

At any rate, he said the site for the new plant - which would employ up to 55 people and cost about $160 million - likely would be near a grain elevator.

Numerous ethanol project proposals have emerged in southwest Kansas in the past year. Boosters note the ready market here for distiller's grain, a byproduct in the ethanol production process that serves as cattle feed, and the ready access to corn and sorghum, ingredients used to make the fuel additive.

This week's announcement by Conestoga and Ethanol Energy followed the decision by Colwich-based ICM, an ethanol technology company, to design and build the Ford County plant.

With ICM on board, "it gives us a great deal of confidence that we can get the project done quickly and efficiently," Stahl said. Still, financing for the project must be finalized, he added, though he foresees completion within "the next few months."

Dial, meanwhile, plans to build a plant on a plot of land south of Dodge City Regional Airport, adjacent to Hawleywood RV Ranch. Boosters of that project, which will employ up to 50 and cost an estimated $130 million to $160 million, plan to meet locally and search out investors from the area.

Ethanol boosters tout it as a renewable energy source that reduces dependence on foreign oil.

Second ethanol plant to be built in Ford County

By Eric Swanson, The Doge City Globe, August 10, 2006

For the second time in less than a week, a company has announced plans to build an ethanol plant in Ford County.

The Seward County-based group Conestoga Energy Partners has formed a partnership with Ethanol Energy to build an ethanol plant somewhere in Ford County, Conestoga announced Tuesday in a news release. The partners have not chosen a site for the plant yet, but they expect to locate it near one of the area’s co-operatives to make it easier to ship the product.

"We're moving as fast as we can," said Ed Stahl, project manager for BBI International, which is advising as a consultant on the project.

Conestoga's announcement comes less than a week after the Omaha, Neb.-based company Dial Energy agreed to buy 125 acres of land just south of Dodge City Regional Airport for an ethanol plant. Dial Energy’s plans call for a plant that will employ about 50 people and produce at least 100 million gallons of ethanol each year.

Conestoga and Ethanol Energy are planning a plant that will consume 39 million bushels of corn and milo, produce 850,000 tons of distiller's grains - the unfermented portion of the grain, which is used in cattle rations - and generate 110 million gallons of ethanol each year.

The Colwich-based engineering and construction management company ICM, which specializes in ethanol plants, will design and build the Ford County plant. Construction will cost about $160 million and is expected to begin in late 2007 or early 2008.

The finished plant will employ between 50 and 55 people.

A board made up of Ford County residents, members of the Ethanol Energy board and members of the Conestoga board is finalizing details of financing and development for the project.

For the past several years, Ethanol Energy had focused on building an ethanol plant in Hodgeman County, while Conestoga concentrated on its plans to build plants in Garden City and Liberal, Stahl said. He said he thought Ethanol Energy is no longer looking at Hodgeman County sites and will now focus with Conestoga on the Ford County plant.

Conestoga recently broke ground on the Garden City and Liberal facilities, which are expected to be up and running by the end of 2007.

Stahl said the partners decided to look at sites in Ford County because it has two important assets: cattle feedyards and grain.

"Geographically, you want to look where the concentration of cattle feedyards are in the area and where there may be an opportunity to fill a void from the distiller's grain market," he said. "And also, you have to take a look at where there is some volume of grain is being grown, and Dodge City and Ford County certainly fill those requirements."

Joann Knight, vice president of the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corp., said Conestoga and Ethanol Energy decided to announce their plans after ICM said it could start construction in 2007 or 2008.

"That's what they’re giving them right now," Knight said. "But if they can get their site determined within the next few weeks, that might move up closer."

Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.

Ford Co. potential ethanol plant site

Investors seek more partners to secure financing for project

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, August 27, 2005

DODGE CITY - A group of area investors has honed in on Ford County a s a potential site for an ethanol plant and seeks more partners as part of a broader effort to secure financing.

"When our financing is completed, the plant should move forward very rapidly," predicts Bruce Baldwin, president of the board of Ethanol Energy, the corporation formed to pursue the Ford County project.

Project proponents originally focused on Hodgeman County, just north of Ford County. But after a critical section of short-line railway was removed between Jetmore and Hanston in early 2004, stalling efforts there, they turned their focus to a site just east of Ensign in Ford County.

As originally envisioned, the proposal, one of a handful in southwest Kansas, called for a 30 million to 40 million gallon per year plant that would employ around 30 and cost perhaps $45 million.

With the capacity of ethanol plants getting bigger and bigger, however, Baldwin said project participants have been considering increasing the planned size.

Baldwin, who operates an implement dealership in the Finney County community of Kalvesta, said the group's efforts have been in the works for about three years.

Now, Ethanol Energy board members - who come from Finney, Hodgeman and Gray counties as well as Denver - are looking to increase their numbers as a possible prelude to seeking financing from the public at large.

"We're talking with some area people," Baldwin said. "We're actively pursuing funds to get to the next stage."

State Rep. Pat George, R-Dodge City, said he and other area leaders have been assisting in the process, trying to foster interest.

"So far nobody's written a check but we have people thinking about it," George said.

Baldwin said no decision has been made on a specific funding scheme, though he would like to see some sort of plan in place by next spring. Some of the typical mechanisms to fund ethanol plants include public stock offerings and accredited investors or cooperative equity drives.

Ethanol is a gasoline additive made from corn or milo that makes fuel burn cleaner and helps reduce dependency on oil. Aside from Ford County, efforts are afoot to develop projects in Seward and Kearny counties. A St. Louis firm plans to build a plant in Ulysses, starting work by as early as this fall.

The High Plains region of the nation's midsection, notably from southwest Kansas to the Texas Panhandle, is particularly apt for ethanol production in part because of the abundance of corn and milo in the zone. Ready access to cattle - which feed on distillers grain, a byproduct of the ethanol production process - looms large as well.

Baldwin said the Ford County site, in particular, is good because of a ready supply of water and natural gas, among other things.

The privately owned plot is located along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line.

Though awaiting investors, Baldwin said project boosters have applied for grants, including one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would provide funding to carry out engineering of the project site.

A feasibility study showing the worthiness of the Ford County site at the originally proposed 30 million to 40 million gallon per year level was completed last spring.

But if project proponents opt to increase the size of the plant, they'd probably have to conduct a new study.