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Published February 24, 2012, 08:31 AM

Renewable anhydrous ammonia project receives grant

WILLMAR, Minn. — West Central Renewable Ammonia Development LLC has been awarded a major state grant — for $450,000 — to help take a proposed biomass-into-anhydrous-ammonia project to the next stage.

By: Anne Polta, Forum Communications

WILLMAR, Minn. — West Central Renewable Ammonia Development LLC has been awarded a major state grant — for $450,000 — to help take a proposed biomass-into-anhydrous-ammonia project to the next stage.

The grant award was announced Feb. 23 by the Kandiyohi County (Minn.) and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission. The money was awarded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture through its NextGen program, which targets rural energy projects.

The funding allows the EDC "to get off to a running start" with the multimillion-dollar project, said Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.

Backers of the project needed to raise $1 million in all to complete the first investigative and feasibility phase, he said.

Organizers already had about half the amount in hand. The awarding of the NextGen grant brings them to their goal and will enable the project to move forward to the next stage, Renquist said. "There are three phases. Each one builds on the one before. Without this, we literally were going to have to go out privately and look for investors."

The renewable ammonia project proposes to turn locally produced biomass into anhydrous ammonia for fertilizer and enhanced corn crop yields. When completed, it will convert 95,000 tons of biomass to 45,000 tons of subsidy-free anhydrous ammonia annually.

A production site somewhere in Kandiyohi County hasn't been chosen yet; that's expected to come in the next phase, said Cathy Keuseman, agriculture and renewable energy development specialist for the Economic Development Commission.

During phase two, detailed engineering plans and construction estimates also will be developed, she said. This will take a year for completion. Construction financing will be sought early in 2013.

Eighteen projects were in the running for NextGen grant awards, Keuseman said. "It was a competitive process. We scored very high on the project."

Besides providing a financial boost, the grant will help send a signal that top state officials in agriculture see this as a viable project, she said. "Now that we've got such credibility, it will help us going forward."

This article is by Forum Communications, which owns Agweek.

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