Wellington, Kansas, USA.
Project Overview. VNA Wellington is the cellulosic renewable natural gas (RNG) production facility planned for Wellington, KS 67152, to be located south of Highway 160 and west of North Seneca Road. The entity will be 100% owned by VERBIO North America Corporation. The location selected for this project meets our requirements for access to the natural gas transmission grid, high voltage power, major highways, feedstock sources, and sustainable water supply.
Feedstock. Our feedstock is baled crop residue procured within a 50-75 mile radius. We will utilize 75,000+ tons of wheat straw and corn stover per year during the first phase of operations and are interested in other types of cellulosic material including immature cover crops. Logistics consists of baling, storing and hauling: some growers will be in a position to perform all functions themselves, while others will rely on us or a third party to perform one or more functions. We are happy to work under any set of options. We will never use manure, food waste or other odorous material in our process.
RNG. Our process produces RNG which will be cleaned to pipeline natural gas standards and injected into the onsite Black Hills Energy natural gas transmission pipeline. RNG will be sold as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquified natural gas (LNG) vehicle fuel into the market created by the federal Renewable Fuel Standards program as passed by Congress and implemented by the EPA.
Humus. Our process also produces humus, a value-added, lignin- and nutrient-rich soil amendment similar to peat moss or compost which will be principally returned to feedstock suppliers and spread on farmland (using a manure spreader) to replace the agronomic value of the crop residue that was harvested. Humus contains the same micronutrients that are found in unprocessed crop residue. The main differences are that particle size has been reduced by several orders of magnitude and the amount of carbon has been reduced by 50-70%. The advantage of humus is that it provides superior water retention as compared to no-till strategy and provides micronutrients to the soil in a form accessible to roots immediately. The value of humus has been successfully proven to German growers over the past 5+ years and we welcome the opportunity to now prove it to growers in our target feedstock region.
Water Consumption. We will use up to 150 acre-feet of water per year during Phase 1. Although we will press the humus to recycle as much process water as possible, some water remains trapped in the humus and is ultimately spread on farmland in the region. Water will be provided by the City of Wellington. The city has suggested that in future phases we should consider using gray water from their wastewater treatment plant, assuming no negative impacts on our process or the community. Our process does not create any wastewater and we will not pollute ground or surface waters.
Electric Usage. We plan to purchase power from the City of Wellington and we expect to become their largest customer. As a result, they will have improved purchasing power and should be able to better control costs and pass along some incremental savings to their existing and future customers. We are not producing or selling electric power from any of the biogas we produce.
Truck Logistics. We will employ round-trip trucking (stover bales/ humus) using specialized trailers and ultimately plan to exclusively utilize clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles fueled on-site with our own product. At this time there are no existing CNG fueling stations in Sumner County to support CNG fleets, and thus in the near-term the trucks we will use are likely to be diesel-fired and owned by local growers and transportation companies.
Job Creation. During Phase 1 we expect to create 44 full time direct jobs at the plant and another 100+ indirect jobs in the local supply and value chain. Job titles include plant manager, superintendent, shift supervisor, mechanic, electrician, fork lift operator, truck driver, sales representative, logistics manager, lab technician, accountant and IT support. We expect jobs to be filled at an average wage of $28+/hour and a median wage of $30+/hour, plus health and retirement benefits.
Project Financing. VERBIO AG is providing all project financing for Phase 1 of construction. No public financing, federal grants or bank loans have been sought. We have applied to participate in the High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP) and Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) programs offered by the Kansas Department of Commerce and will pursue property tax abatement through the City of Wellington. Incentives are generally tied to achieving targets for job creation and wage rates.