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State biogas industry could get boost from Nelson bill
By Robert Pore
The Grand Island Independent, Nebraska, Publication Date: 04/18/07

Nebraska is poised this year to produce 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol
that's derived from corn.

This year, Nebraska farmers are expected to plant 9 million acres of
corn to help feed the state's growing ethanol industry.

But Nebraska is also a leading livestock production state and the
nation's leading red meat production leader.

And for Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., that livestock industry could be the
next growth market for biofuel production.

Nelson is introducing the Biogas Production Incentive Act of 2007 today
in the Senate.

He said the legislation builds on existing efforts to promote biofuels
and renewable energy by encouraging the production of biogas, a natural
gas substitute made from animal waste such as manure and other
agricultural and organic wastes, through the use of anaerobic digestion
systems.

"The technology to break down animal wastes and make biogas already
exists, but it needs encouragement from the federal government to become
a commercially viable alternative to natural gas," he said.

Earlier this year, the Nebraska Agricultural Statistics Service reported
that all cattle and calves on hand Jan. 1 in Nebraska totaled 6.65
million head, up 2 percent from a year ago and 5 percent above 2005.

Nebraska inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1 was 3 million head.

Nelson said the new energy source would benefit rural communities and
the environment while lessening this nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

"We shouldn't waste the waste; we should promote biogas development,"
Nelson said.

That technology is also planned for Grand Island.

Last November, Swift & Co. and Environmental Power Corp., a renewable
biofuels industry, agreed to build a renewable gas facility at Swift's
beef processing plant in Grand Island.

According to the agreement reached by Swift and Environmental Power
Corp., an Environmental Power subsidiary, Microgy Inc., will construct,
own and operate the gas production facility and sell its gas to Swift,
according to a 15-year gas purchase agreement.

The gas production facility will consist of two 1.2-million-gallon
digesters that will consume wastes generated by the Grand Island plant.
The digesters will be able to produce up to 250,000 MMBTU per year.
That's the equivalent of about 1.8 million gallons of heating oil.

It is estimated by the Environmental Power Corporation that anaerobic
digester (AD) systems on larger-scale dairy, swine and beef farms, if
fully operational and with a complete supply of all feedstock materials,
could produce well more than 340 million mmbtu of gas per year. This has
the energy equivalent of about 2.5 billion gallons of heating oil per year.

Nelson said Nebraska has made great strides in developing an ethanol
industry in Nebraska.

"We should do more to diversify and expand our production of biofuels
and renewable energy," he said. "My legislation will put into place tax
incentives and financial support for large-scale and small-scale
producers to get involved in biogas production."

 The Grand Island Independent

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