Kearny County still eyeing ethanol plant

By JAMIE JONES, Garden City Telegram, June 21, 2005

LAKIN - Ethanol is still an option, even if neighboring counties are courting new ethanol plants, Kearny County officials say.

Last week, the Grant County Economic Development office announced that Kansas' largest ethanol plant soon would be coming to town if everything goes as planned. According to a press release from North American Bioenergy Resources, groundbreaking for the 100-million-gallon-per-year plant is proposed for this fall.

Meanwhile, Kearny County is in the middle of a feasibility study to look at building a plant of its own.

"Ethanol is not off the table. The plan is to stay the course, and the feasibility study will consider the proposed plant in Grant County," said Kearny County Economic Development department head Ralph Goodnight.

According to Mark Yancy, who is with BBI International, the consultants doing the study for Kearny County, the study looks at a number of factors.

The study looks at site selection, feedstock analysis, market analysis, financial analysis and construction, among other things. Yancy said the ideal site location would be 30 to 40 acres in a rural area with low cost feedstock. Kearny County commissioners said there currently are two sites being considered - one right outside of Lakin and the other outside of Deerfield. The study could be complete by mid-August, Goodnight said.

Yancy said it would take about 35 people to run an ethanol plant, as it is highly automated. The average salary probably would be between $45,000 and $50,000. BBI officials projected a $1.7 million a year payroll and gross annual revenue at $70 million, they said. BBI is looking at a 40-million-gallon-per-year plant.

At Monday's Lakin City Council meeting, city officials also had ethanol on their minds.

City Administrator Frank Soukup handed out a letter he wrote to BBI addressing the feasibility of Lakin's wastewater facilities for an ethanol plant. Lakin's current wastewater treatment system cannot handle the waste that would come from an ethanol plant, he said.

According to Soukup, a plant that produces 40 million gallons of ethanol per year would exceed the current system's capabilities. In July, the current system is being upgraded to meet a projected population growth of about 700 people. Even with the upgrade, however, the lagoons would need to be expanded again with an ethanol plant to hold a 40 percent increase, he said.

"We can either take a plant or have more people, but not both," he said.

Soukup said a 12- to 15-acre expansion that would be needed would cost the city about $700,000, so he is proposing a cost-share plan if an ethanol plant is approved for Kearny County.

"At this time, without some financial support for a system upgrade, the city can't handle it," he said.

The sites the county has included in the feasibility study include space for more than one business. At a previous County Commission meeting, Kearny County Commission Chairman Tom Wright IV mentioned making a site an industrial park with three different plants. One would be the ethanol plant, another would be a biodiesel plant and county commissioners would not disclose what the third plant would be, though they said it would be agricultural in nature.

The possibility of a milk processing plant in Kearny County also has been discussed. Goodnight said there has been an effort by North American Milk and Greater Southwest Agency, of Rogersville, Mo., to look into the possibility. He said he has had a couple of communications with the group.

According to a memorandum from John Dunker, with the Greater Southwest Agency, the group is doing pre-engineering estimates into a capital budget for the plant and focusing on sites close to milk supplies. Dunker was unavailable for comment.


Kearny Co. to study feasibility of plant

By JAMIE JONES, Garden City Telegram, May 10, 2005

LAKIN - Kearny County commissioners have taken one more step in the process of possibly bringing an ethanol plant to the county.

At Monday's meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to start the process of taking bids for a feasibility study.

According to BBI International, a biofuels consulting firm out of Golden, Colo., the feasibility study looks at site selection, feedstock analysis, market analysis, financial analysis and construction, among other things.

Mark Yancy, of BBI, said the ideal site location would be 30 to 40 acres in a rural area with low cost feedstock.

The Kearny County Community Development Board had an informational meeting Thursday in conjunction with BBI International to jump-start the process and see if county residents were interested in an ethanol plant.

BBI said the estimated cost for a feasibility study is $30,000, which includes researching two sites.

Kearny County Commission Chairman Tom Wright IV spoke with the commission at Monday's meeting about a site he had in mind east of Lakin. The site is located on about 30 to 40 acres and is close to U.S. Highway 50, as well as the railroad. He mentioned making the site an "industrial park" with three different plants. One would be the ethanol plant, another would be a biodiesel plant and the county commissioners would not disclose what the third plant would be, though they said it would be agricultural in nature.

Commissioners spoke with Lakin City Administrator Frank Soukup about whether or not an ethanol plant would be feasible as far as the city's water and sewer systems.

The city is used to taking in 230,000 gallons of water each day, and that number would double with just one ethanol plant, Soukup said.

"What we're doing now wouldn't even come close to where we'd need to be," he said.

He said the group would have to hire an engineer to look at the water system, and would need plenty of land to expand as it could possibly have to add lagoons to facilitate the plant.

The commission voted unanimously to have the city administrator look into the ability of the water and sewer systems to handle an ethanol plant.

Yancy said it would take about 35 people to run the ethanol plant, as it is highly automated. Ed Stahl, also of BBI, said the average wage probably would be between $45,000 and $50,000. Stahl projected a $1.7 million a year payroll and gross annual revenue at $70 million.

There already are several ethanol plants in Kansas - Russell, Oakley, Colwich, Garden City, Atchison and Leoti. Plants in Garnett, Phillipsburg and Pratt are under construction.