Powers Energy moving forward in Indiana

By Holly Jessen | November 15, 2010
Posted Nov. 15, 2010

Powers Energy of America Inc., a company planning to build a $254 million garbage-to-ethanol plant in Schneider, Ind., expects to have its debt financing in place in December. The company has also executed agreements and established working relationships with three area construction companies, with plans to break ground next summer and complete the project by mid- 2013.

"Lake County residents and public entities will have no financial liability for any portion of the project before or during construction and operation, or after facility closure," said Ken Bosar, vice president. He added that Powers Energy has a contract with a company for 100 percent debt financing with no private investors and that the funding source will be announced at a later date.

Powers Energy One of Indiana has a 15-year contract with one 5-year extension with the Lake County Solid Waste Management District to provide municipal solid waste (MSW), the plant's feedstock. The current tipping rates for garbage disposal are $38 to $43 a ton, with rates expected to rise to $49 a ton in 20 years, Jeff Langbehn, executive director of the solid waste district told EPM. The 20-year agreement will allow cities in Lake County that participate to enjoy a significant price reduction as well as receiving host fees. Tipping fees at the ethanol plant will start at $17.50 a ton and reduce to $17.25 once input exceeds 2,000 tons daily. After filling contractual obligations for waste from Lake County, Powers Energy can also take in waste from other communities, including nearby Chicago.

Powers Energy will utilize INEOS Bio technology to convert MSW into electricity and ethanol. "Our ethanol will have even greater ramifications and benefits as we reduce the need for landfill disposal, and thus, we reduce the potential for landfill emissions such as methane and other organic compounds, and the potential for water contamination from runoff and leachate leakage," Bosar said.

To start out, the plant will have a capacity of about 42 MMgy. At full scale, the plant will process 8,000 tons of MSW daily for 160 MMgy of ethanol. Metal and glass will be removed and recycled. "The Schneider facility is a closed-loop gasification and ethanol conversion plant that is modular in design to facilitate construction and operational flexibility," Bosar told EPM. "All components of the plant have been used at full scale in the waste, ethanol, and chemical industries for many years, removing the risk of so-called ‘scale-up' concerns."

Supposed controversy surrounding the project has been drummed up by a disgruntled competitor, Langbehn said. A landfill outside of Lake County stands to lose about 80 percent of revenue generated by tipping fees, should the ethanol plant become a reality. In the two years since the solid waste district and Powers Energy signed a contract, the project has been moving steadily forward day by day. "It really is a neat success story project and one that we are very excited about," he said.