Innovating in America’s heartland

Innovating in America’s heartland

At Abengoa, we believe progress hinges on finding new paths to moving forward.

This month, we’re putting this approach into practice in Kansas, where we’re partnering with local producers to fuel our first commercial-sized cellulosic ethanol plant.

Located in Hugoton, Kan., a small town in the state’s southwest, Abengoa Bioenergy Hybrid of Kansas (ABHK) isn’t a traditional ethanol plant. As a second-generation facility, it doesn’t require food crops to produce ethanol (the way first-generation plants do), but instead, uses corn stover — a byproduct of the typical corn harvest. Stover, which includes inedible husks, stalks and leaves, usually lies unused after a normal harvest. So, while our plant relies on the local harvest for biomass fuel, it doesn’t disrupt traditional food supplies in order to produce the 25 million gallons of ethanol per year that we’re anticipating.

To find our biomass feedstock, we tapped into Kansas’ long farming history.

By situating the plant in the midst of its supply stream, we’re able to immediately reach out to potential producers. And in working with local farmers, we’ve made it clear that when we conduct crop waste removal, our central objective is the short- and long-term protection of the producer’s soil.

To this end, we’ve worked closely with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish safe removal rates for a producer’s land based on soil composition, crop residue type and wind erosion. To streamline the collection process, we placed storage depots no more than 20 miles from ABHK on central roads.

On a daily basis, the plant will consume 1,100 dry tons of stover. We’ve made 10-year agreements with our biomass suppliers and we plan on seeing our relationships grow well beyond the next decade as we continue to innovate together.

Our work in Kansas is just the latest step in our company’s history of innovative approaches to technological issues — and another example of why Cambio Financiero, one of Spain’s leading financial magazines, honored us with their Most Innovative Company Award in 2013.