Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
Company seeks land for biofuel plant
By Shelley Grieshop
A Michigan-based company is seeking locally-produced chicken manure and wastewater in order to produce biodiesel fuel.
Ron Meyer, representing Optional Energy Partners (OEP), pitched a proposal to Mercer County commissioners Tuesday, asking them to consider investing in a joint venture to create fuel and possibly other byproducts.
Meyer of Botkins said OEP is interested in leasing county-owned land at Club Island in Montezuma, where a small processing plant would be built at OEP's expense near two wastewater settling ponds.
OEP's process to produce fuel involves liquefying chicken manure - which would be purchased from local farmers - with wastewater from the city of Celina and allowing it to ferment to create ethanol. The ethanol then is used as fuel or to accelerate the growth of algae, which is processed into oil for use as diesel fuel, Meyer said.
Another byproduct from the process is "algae cakes," which can be sold as feed for livestock, he said.
The leftover water is clean and could be pumped into Grand Lake if proper licenses and permits are obtained from the EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and other agencies, Meyer said.
The cost to produce the fuel is about 70 cents per gallon, he added.
To have chicken manure and wastewater available in such close proximity in the county is "an ideal circumstance," company President Dr. Jay Newman told The Daily Standard. However, he admitted that numerous tests would be taken by company officials and their chemists before any steps would be taken by OEP.
In September the company officially contracted with Sturgis, Mich., officials to build an algae farm there. OEP will harness the energy of methane gas produced by the city's wastewater plant and use it to generate electricity. The electric will provide heat and light to grow algae, which will be processed for biofuels and other products.
As part of the agreement, OEP agrees to supply the city with biofuels at 80 percent of the market price.
Meyer told commissioners the company is not seeking to create a "big enterprise" but wish to keep the business at the local level.
"I think community organizations is the way to go," he said, explaining the fuel produced would mainly be used for county or city transportation needs such as school buses, police cars and fire trucks.
Commissioners told Meyer there already is a lot of competition in the area for the sale of livestock manure - a fact Meyer said he already knew. Last fall, a Cleveland-area company spoke to commissioners about using county land to turn manure into electricity.
Commissioner John Bruns questioned Meyer on the possibility of an odor problem at the proposed plant site at Club Island. Meyer said the odor nearly disappears when the material is being processed. When asked by The Daily Standard about the odor from the 1,500 or so tons of manure that would be stored near the plant, Meyer said it can be treated naturally to reduce the smell.
Bruns also voiced his concern that truck traffic would increase in the area and through the village of Montezuma to U.S. 127. Meyer agreed it could be a problem but didn't immediately offer a solution.
Commissioners told Meyer they'd like to discuss the idea with other area officials and would contact him if there is interest.