|Renewable Ag Energy, Inc.|
156 SE 1st Ave. Suite 1
Ontario, OR 97914
cell L 208-908-2247
cell K 208-405-5878
Recent News Reports
HEPPNER Sorghum cooperative has fields growing, eyes on Heppner plant
Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 11:00 am
High-biomass sweet sorghum could provide electrical power in the future, and is providing a new crop for some Columbia Basin farmers this year.
Lance Wells of the Ontario-based Agri Energy Producers Association said the cooperative has farmers growing 1,500 acres of high biomass sweet sorghum in Oregon this year, including 600 acres in Umatilla and Morrow counties. Farmers in Malheur County are growing another 900 acres. Oregon’s is the only irrigated high-biomass sweet sorghum cooperative organizers know of in the nation, he said.
The co-op hopes to have farmers growing 30,000 acres of sorghum in Oregon next year. Farmers who join the co-op would be paid for growing the crop and participate in the profits from the conversion plant and profits from the generation facility.
“It’s growing a dedicated energy crop,” he said. “The whole process is a closed-loop energy crop.”
Sweet sorghum, a drought-resistant, heat-tolerant member of the grass family, was introduced to America in 1853. It is a native of Africa.
The crop has been considered an American energy crop for the past four years.
“You plant it in late spring,” Wells said. “You can double crop it behind triticale or peas. It’s a good-paying rotational crop, grown on an annual basis.”
It’s more efficient with water and fertilizer than corn, he added.
Farmer Craig Scott of Echo, who is growing 250 acres of sorghum, added, “It’s more forgiving.”
Scott said the sorghum in his field is 9-10 feet tall, “but it’s not done growing yet. We’re hoping we’ve got another month.”
The harvest of the Columbia Basin’s first sweet sorghum crop will begin in early November. Farmers will use a chopper to reduce the cane and leaves to ensilage for storage before it’s turned into energy.
“We harvest the whole crop, all the moisture and the fiber,” Wells said. “We juice it. It’s full of sugar.”
From the field, the energy-filled juice will go into a digester, where it’s fermented to create methane, which runs a generator to create electricity.
“The fiber is used for combustion purposes,” Wells said, adding it can be burned at up to 50 percent moisture or dried to compress into a pellet or a cube.
“Our markets are for creating renewable electricity in our own power plants or pellets to be sold to somebody else,” he said.
Kurt Christensen, Agri Energy’s manager, is working with the Port of Morrow to buy the idled power plant that once was part of the Kinzua lumber mill at Heppner. The port commission has given Agri Energy until early December to acquire financing for the $39 million project.
Christensen hopes to be firing the 10-megawatt power plant to 90 percent of its capacity with sorghum by the end of the first quarter of 2011. He still has power purchase agreements to secure, however.
“We are very close to reaching an agreement with a Northwest utility,” he said.
Wells said the cooperative also is planning to build processing facilities in the Columbia Basin and at Nyssa that would include methane digesters plus sweet sorghum drying and cubing equipment.
Wells said even 30,000 acres of sorghum growing in Oregon wouldn’t displace other crops to a great degree.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to notice,” he said. “Because it’s an annual crop, it gives the farmers flexibility.”
More information about the sorghum cooperative is available by calling Agri Energy Producers Association in Ontario, 541-889-3836. The main office is at 156 S.E. First St., Ontario, OR 97914.
Power in the plants
First sorghum harvest holds promise for Morrow County
Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2010 12:02 pm
Boardman farmer Joe Taylor ventured into uncharted territory when he planted high-biomass sorghum last spring. But by joining the growers’ cooperative Agri Energy Producers Association, he didn’t just invest in the cutting edge of green energy production. He invested in Morrow County: His sorghum is destined for the soon-to-be-revived Heppner Power Plant.
“I thought it had some potential,” he said, gazing at his irrigated circle of fully grown sorghum. “I look at it as a long-range plan.”
Taylor was among the small crowd of people who watched the ceremonial first cutting of his crop Tuesday morning. An enormous forage harvester, imported from Idaho for the occasion, swept through several yards of the corn-like crop, chopped it into small pieces and poured it into a bankout wagon.
A film crew interviewed the driving forces behind the cooperative, Lance Wells and Kurt Christensen, while representatives from the California-based seed company Ceres, Inc., which developed the seed, stood by.
This season’s harvest is the cooperative’s first on a large scale. Last year, it harvested less than 50 acres of sorghum; this year, members in the Columbia Basin will cut 600 acres of the crop, while those in the Nyssa area are harvesting 900 acres.
Christensen said the cooperative is the first to grow such a quantity of high-biomass sorghum in Oregon, and possibly the United States. Agri Energy Producers Association jumped onto the biomass-for-energy scene quickly, has aggressively recruited growers and made ambitious plans. Throughout the planning process, Christensen said, state and federal agencies have supported the effort. The Federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program, for example, offers financial assistance to growers.
“We’ve made steps in this that many companies would have thought were going too fast,” Christensen said. “but it has put us in a position where we’re ready now to take our cooperative nationwide.”
Burning sorghum for electricity may not sound like a “green” proposition, but Christensen said the plant, which has an extensive root system, sequesters so much carbon during its growth cycle that the entire production is carbon-negative. Unlike ethanol, which requires more energy to produce that it provides, the simple steps in biomass energy generation — grow, cut, press, burn — result in a good net energy gain.
What sets Agri Energy Producers apart, Christensen said, is its use of the entire sorghum plant to produce energy, both the fiber and the juice. The juice goes into a digester, or bio-gas power plant, while the fiber burns in a biomass power plant. At the Heppner site, the systems will stand side by side. The unusable low-temperature heat from the biomass plant — 300 degrees and less — will heat the digester.
On top of revenue from typically long-range power purchasing agreements, the cooperative can also sell sorghum pellets. Lance Wells said he and Christensen are in the midst of negotiating a contract for up to 500,000 tons per year of pellets. Such an agreement would require around 25,000 acres of sorghum, but the developers are shooting high: They plan to have 30,000 acres in production next year.
So far, things are slow-moving at the Heppner Power Plant. Christensen said their goal of having it up and running by the first quarter of next year may be delayed until their financing is complete. Taylor’s sorghum will sit in a silage pile until the plant is ready.
Christensen said the refurbished 12 megawatt plant will employ between 13 and 19 people,
“In the back of my mind, I’m thinking how good this would be for Heppner,” he said.
Click to download a PDF file of the most recent news report about Agri Energy Producers Assn.
Page 1 Page 2 taken from the Heppner Gazette-Times
Biofuel co-op nears make-or-break point
ONTARIO — Officials working to start up a new biofuel cooperative in Malheur County are nearing the point of make or break as the time for planting crops is fast approaching, and farmers are deciding whether sorghum will be a fit in their farming this year.
Called AGRI Energy Producers Association, initial operations are targeted for the Ontario area, but other areas are under consideration, according to a disclosure paper released to a growers meeting Thursday at the Boulevard Grange. Another growers meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, with a company interested in setting up a power plant.
“The co-op is operational,” Kurt Christensen, whose company, with Renewable Ag Energy Inc., has been helping for the co-op, said.
The formation papers have been filed, he said. However, the articles of incorporation and bylaws need to be provided to the growers, he said, and that should happen next week.
“We’re still relying on government to get started,” Randon Wilson, an attorney specializing in forming co-ops said, referring to government incentives. “They will not work for the longterm. We don’t want to live off the government.”
The initial crop is sorghum, which will be used as the biomass crop, and would be grown for manufacturing into pellets for burning to generate electricity. In addition to having a new crop for local farmers, co-op officials’ plans include building a plant in the local area to produce the pellets from the sorghum or other crops in the future, and then building a power plant that would burn the pellets to generate power.
Co-op developers plan to a have fully-integrated system, from crop production to energy production. They will be meeting with a power company to hear its proposal for generating electricity from biomass pellets. However, they are planning to push ahead with their own power plant.
“If we don’t get started, it won’t get started. We will get seed if nobody else does,” Wilson said, commenting the seed company is behind this effort.
Negotiations are being finalized for the sale of all pellets produced from the 2010 crop, including a contract with an Oregon power plant and a contract with a party in the United Kingdom for the export of up to 220,000 tons.
“The United Kingdom is paying a bunch to power plants to quit burning coal,” Wilson said.
The next steps, some of which could take place next week, include completing subscriptions to replace non-binding subscriptions, signing the membership agreement, getting applications by growers for loans from their banks, seed orders, with crops to be planted by May 15.
Farmers examine renewable energy field
ONTARIO — Local farmers Monday were invited to be involved in the renewable energy field, not only as producers of a crop that could be turned into a fuel, but also as owners of the power generation facility that would burn the crop to produce electricity.
The question is “are we going to be in the driver’s seat?” Randon Wilson, an attorney who specializes in forming agriculture co-ops, said. “We have to decide where we are in charge.”
Wilson told the group, gathered at the Boulevard Grange near Ontario, as members of a proposed co-op for production of biomass crops, they could own the whole process from farm to processing to generation, or they could just do a portion of it. That would include producing the biomass crop that would be turned into fuel or producing the crop and the processing facility that would turn the crop into pellets.
It would take about five months to construct a processing plant to make the pellets, Wilson said. Construction of a power plant will take 18 to 24 months, Renewable Ag Energy Inc. President Kurt Christensen said.
The meeting was hosted by representatives of Renewable Ag Energy, Inc., an Ontario company assisting a group of local farmers, Agri Energy Producers, to bring a new crop to Malheur County.
While there is more than one crop that would produce the biomass, the co-op proponents were mainly discussing high biomass sorghum.
The high biomass crops would be planted in late May. Irrigation and fertilizer applications would be similar to corn. It would be harvested in September or October. Chopped green, it would be hauled to a conversion facility, where it would be stored, dried, cubed and shipped.
Harvesting, hauling and processing costs will be absorbed by the co-op, Christensen said.
“We’re not playing the fuel market,” Christensen said.
The farmers would be paid for growing the crop and participate in the profits from the conversion plan and profits from the generation facility, he said.
“We can’t survive on just what is produced on the farm,” Wilson said. “We need more bites. We have to take a look at energy.”
It was estimated the power plant would support 17 to 20 family-wage jobs, Christensen said.
Choices include full integration, wholly owned by the farmers, or partial integration, linked with other joint ventures or investors, Wilson said. But, it becomes difficult when you mix producers and investors, Wilson said, because eventually there are tensions between the two interests.
“We would like to get the jump on creating a state-wide co-op,” he said, adding that different groups of growers could act as separate divisions.
Such a large co-op would give the producers a lot of clout, Wilson said.
“There is a significant market,” he said.
Wilson, Christensen and others were also meeting with representatives from state agencies this week to discuss the permitting processes, land-use and other regulation issues.
Sorghum – Renewable energy crop
by Mike Hammond
Posted on February 8th 2010
Even when other regions in the state of Oregon are a part of renewable energy and have established wind farms, Malheur County is more interested in products that have the ability to be grown into renewable energy. This brings a brand new cash crop into the county. One group of farmers from around the locality are going to be having a public meeting at 10 am on Monday in the Boulevard Grange in order to assess the interest levels of farmers in forming a coopeartive owned by the growers itself of high biomass sorghum. “It has been proven that this crop does not only grow nicely in our area, it also produces enough yield to make it a profitable crop for the farmer,” said the President of Renewable Ag Energy Inc. (who are helping the farmers with this project), Kurt Christensen. “The crops value is going to be enhanced when we complete construction of a processing facility which is fully owned by the cooperative and is going to be converting sorghum into a burnable, compressed product.”
Randon Wilson has been chosen to direct this initiative and to finance the cooperative. He has also directed the Snake River cooperative for sugar which led to the creation of Amalgamated Sugar Co. as well as another grower cooperative, United Onions USA Inc. “This is the correct time for people like us to start getting involved with the energy market & there are very little crops which can easily be grown for profit in our area and also give us a net energy gain,” said Christensen. “Net gain from energy is supposed to be the difference between energy used for growing a crop & the energy gotten from burning the crop in order to produce energy in the form of heat or electricity.” Another advantage here is that any carbon dioxide which is produced and released into the atmosphere during this process is removed in the growing season. He also added, “This is going to make the cogeneration of electricity free from greenhouse gas production.” Christensen also said that they would be needing close to 3,000 acres of land in order to make this project feasible & initially they are going to only be focusing on growing a particular type of sorghum though we could start growing other different types of sorghum in the near future as well as other profitable renewable energy crops.