Biomass in the Bluegrass State

Group of 50 Kentuckians embarked on three-day biomass tour.
By Anna Austin | June 22, 2011

A bioenergy buzz across Kentucky prompted more than 50 individuals representing the state’s government, academia and bioenergy industry to embark on a multiple-stop, three-day bioenergy tour in May, transforming that buzz into some considerable enthusiasm.

Tim Hughes, director of biofuels at the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet’s Department of Energy Development and Independence, says the idea for the tour stemmed from some local farmers’ interest in Missouri-based Show Me Energy’s business model, a farmer-owned cooperative that has developed a fuel densification facility. Hughes' cabinet and the Kentucky Office of Agricultural Policy jointly organized the tour.

Show Me Energy’s facility in Centerview, Mo., was one stop on the tour, as were a Monsanto research facility in Chesterfield, Mo., an Abengoa ethanol plant in Mt. Vernon, Ind., and Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining Magazine’s International Biomass Conference & Expo that was held May 2-5 in St. Louis.

“The tour, which was really well-rounded, provided us with a good overview of the biomass industry and the issues that it faces,” Hughes says. “The networking was tremendous, and it gave those interested and involved in the state’s industry an opportunity to meet and understand initiatives going on across Kentucky, and different programs available.”

Going into the tour, attendees all had different interests that they were hoping to pick up information about, according to Hughes. They were able to accomplish that and much more because of the diversity of information and tour locations. “They were able to see a lot of different angles of the industry, and everyone realized there are a lot of questions to be asked about the future of the industry and what we can do as a state to move it forward,” he says.

Currently, Kentucky hosts a grain-based ethanol plant, two biodiesel plants and a few fuel pellet operations, Hughes says. “We’ve got a very strong forest industry in the state. With the resources we’ve got—the infrastructure, roads and the state’s location—there are a lot more opportunities down the road.”

Hughes said he would definitely recommend a similar trip to other states. “It was a tremendous experience and full of value,” he says. “From the Abengoa plant to Show Me Energy to walking through the biomass conference trade show and seeing all of the different companies involved, as well as attending informative breakout sessions, we were able to see a little of everything.”

Hughes adds that a final report on the trip is being put together for presentation to attendees, the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet secretary and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.