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Oakley ethanol plant gets $15.6M grant





OAKLEY -- Leftover money from the federal Recovery Act will help pay for a project converting cattle manure to methane to help fuel the Western Plains Energy ethanol plant near Oakley.

The Kansas Department of Commerce announced Tuesday it will invest almost $15.6 million in a biomethane digester at the Western Plain Energy facility, which is in western Gove County about 6 miles east of Oakley.

Total cost of the project is estimated to be $28.2 million.

The company's power plant will be converted over from natural gas to methane -- produced from cattle manure. Pioneer Feeders, located on the southeast edge of Oakley, will supply the manure.

Another $5 million will go to support a demonstration project for harvesting, handling and delivery of biomass. The money will go to Wichita-based Kansas Alliance for Biorefining and Bioenergy. The equipment will be deployed in northeast and southwest Kansas.

The money for the projects was reallocated to make sure it remained in the state.

Any unspent money was required to be refunded to the federal government by April 1.

In a statement, Kansas Secretary of Commerce Pat George said the biomethane production project replaces fossil fuel for the production of biofuels at the Oakley facility.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture study, however, suggests it could replace about 92 percent of the plant's natural gas demand.

In addition to cattle manure, the digester will be capable of converting food waste, grain dust and livestock slaughter waste to methane. The digester will be capable of utilizing 555 tons per day.

That's estimated to be about 25 truckloads of manure coming into the plant daily, with five truckloads of dry fertilizer going back out.

Construction is expected to start this fall with full energy production by June.