Abengoa facility is a Hugoton diamond

By Holly Jessen | October 20, 2014

abengoa - NightMy trip to Kansas for the Abengoa Bioenergy grand opening celebration of its 25 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant was well worth the trip. I won’t soon forget my tour of the state-of-the-art facility or the local residents I met there.

I saw the Abengoa plant glittering like a diamond across the Kansas prairie before I even realized I was approaching the city it is located near. The lights on the plant shone brightly in the early morning light and, even from a distance, I got a clear impression of a brand new cutting edge facility.

I flew into Garden City, Kansas, the night before and got up early the next day to drive to Hugoton in time for a pre-ceremony interview with Chris Standlee, executive vice president of Abengoa, followed by a plant tour. Nervous that I would be late, I arrived in plenty of time to stop at the local cafe, The Jet, to have a breakfast for less than $5 and talk to the locals about the plant. I also left with two free pens, thanks to the generosity of the people behind the counter at the cafe. Somehow I arrived in Hugoton with my laptop, camera, audio recorder, paper, extra copies of the magazine and other supplies, but nothing to write with.

Abengoa - JetInside the cafe, I was quickly identified as someone in town for the grand opening event, in part due to my Ethanol Producer Magazine sweater. “You look like an advance team for the governor,” joked Jeff Crawford, a long-time Hugoton resident, before I even had a chance to introduce myself and ask questions. I also talked to Hugoton resident Linda Brooks, who, like Crawford, had some positive things to say about the plant operating in her backyard.

The people in the cafe also had some questions for me. The ones I couldn’t answer, I asked Standlee. They wanted to know how many people would be employed at the plant. (Answer: 76 full time employees with an annual payroll of $5 million.) They had questions about water use at the plant. (The facility does not discharge any water. A water treatment facility processes it and the majority is recycled. The amount that can’t go back into the process is placed in earthen holding ponds and used to irrigate a 400 acre field of switchgrass grown onsite.)

I addressed some of the answers Standlee gave me in the story I posted to our website. The people in the cafe wanted to know what would happen if there was a drought and area farmers didn’t produce enough corn stover to keep the plant producing ethanol. (Hint: Corn stover isn’t the only game in town. The plant can process multiple feedstocks, including pallets from a local manufacture and prairie grasses.) They wanted to know if the plant had produced any cellulosic ethanol yet. (A little. Although the plant isn’t yet operating, the company hopes to reach full capacity by the second quarter of next year.)

I’m glad I arrived early enough to have breakfast in Hugoton. The residents were generous with their pens, friendly, funny and curious. Talking to them prepared me for my interview with Standlee and shaped my story. I don’t know if I’ll make it back to Hugoton anytime soon, but if I do, I’ll be sure to stop by The Jet! Maybe this time I’ll have some pens to share.

This article can also be found on Holly’s blog:
http://ethanolproducer.com/blog/article/2014/10/abengoa-facility-is-a-hugoton-diamond

and to read her article about the plant grand opening:
http://ethanolproducer.com/articles/11566/abengoa-plant-has-multiple-feedstock-capabilities

In addition to these stories about the Abengoa opening, you can also see the news item that was reported by KSN the evening of the opening by going to http://ksn.com/2014/10/17/new-biorefinery-brings-500-jobs-to-kansas/

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