This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 25, 2005

Cow Manure and Cotton Gin Waste to Fuel Ethanol Plant in Texas

Ethanol fuel has a big advantage over conventional motor fuels: its primary energy source is the starch found in corn and other grains, a renewable source of energy. However, in most ethanol fuel plants, that benefit is watered down a bit by the use of fossil fuels to run the fermentation and distillation processes that convert the starch to ethanol. The developers of a new ethanol fuel plant in Hereford, Texas —located about 40 miles southwest of Amarillo—plan to avoid that dilemma through an unusual approach: the biofuel plant will produce its fuel using biomass energy. As you might guess from the name, Hereford has an ample supply of cattle manure, and the plant will combine that with cotton gin waste, converting the mixture into a clean-burning biogas to fuel the plant's boilers. The Panda Group is developing the project and plans to break ground on the project this summer, with commercial operation expected in late 2006. The plant will produce 100 million gallons of ethanol per year from corn and milo, a type of sorghum that produces large yellow or whitish seeds. See the Panda Energy press release (PDF 95 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

Something must be in the air in Texas, because a similar idea is being put to the test in Denton, about 30 miles north of Fort Worth. Biodiesel Industries, Inc. and the City of Denton dedicated a new biodiesel plant in late March that uses landfill gas to provide all its process heat and power needs. See the press release from the National Biodiesel Board (PDF 27 KB).

Such efficient uses of biomass energy could help to put the United States on the road to energy independence, according to a recent feasibility study prepared for DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) outlines a strategy in which 1 billion dry tons of biomass would displace 30 percent of the petroleum used for transportation in the United States. According to the study, such an amount would represent a six-fold increase in biomass production, but could be achieved with relatively modest changes in land use and agricultural and forestry practices. See the ORNL press release or go directly to the full report (PDF 8 MB).