Home News Local News Dexter biogas plant owner aims to start production in fall

Dexter biogas plant owner aims to start production in fall

A small part of the 40-acre biogas plant near Dexter is seen in this recent photo. An executive with Kolb Bioenergy said that the plant is 95% complete. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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An executive with a national construction firm that owns a biogas plant near Dexter expects the plant to be ready for full-time production by October and hopes that it will be selling natural gas by the early part of 2022.

“The plant is pretty well built and ready to go,” said Jeff Kolb, vice president of the Kolb Group and Kolb Grading of St. Charles, Missouri, which owns Kolb Bioenergy NM 1 LLC.

He said his company has invested $45 million to $50 million in the local plant.

He estimated that the plant is 95% completed and said the employees, which number about five now, are making some final adjustments to electrical systems and components.

“Once we do all that, then we will start a commissioning, after we get our permit, which should be in September or October,” Kolb said.

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Commissioning to bring the plant up to full production levels will take another 90 days, Kolb estimated.

“The reality is that we will be up and running by September and October, but when we really will start producing gas will probably be in the February time frame,” he said.

He said that Roeslein Alternative Energy, based in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, will manage the plant operations and market the natural gas produced.

“We have had quite a few people who have inquired and expressed an interest in it,” Kolb said.

Roeslein already runs similar projects, and Kolb said that some additional local workers will probably be hired and trained by Roeslein once production ramps up.

Kolb Bioenegy has owned the project since 2016. After taking ownership, it worked to continue construction on the plant, which is about 10 miles northwest of Dexter on Prices Lane. The plant is on 40 acres, with Kolb Bioenergy owning an adjacent 40 acres for future use.

The plant operated for a short time in about 2019, with Kolb saying they were able to produce “clean” natural gas. But the plant had to close due to a problem with the consistency of fuel production.

Kolb said his company then worked with a different engineering firm that determined that the way the dairy manure and waste — what Kolb calls the feedstock — being fed into the equipment caused surges to the digestor. The company and engineering firm spent 18 months to design and build a separator and two hydrolizers so that the feedstock can be provided at a steady flow to the digestor, which creates the biogas from the waste.

“We are very comfortable now with everybody we have on board and where we are at today that, once we get our permit” we will be ready to start commissioning, he said.

The five-year permit is an agricultural wastewater discharge permit through the New Mexico Environment Department. Nancy McDuffie, manager of the Agricultural Compliance Section of the Ground Water Quality Bureau of the Environment Department, said the discharge plan meets state requirements and is expected to be published within a couple of weeks for public review and comment. The permit could be issued as soon as 30 days after publication if no hearings are required, she said. The company already has a permit related to its air emissions.

“As soon as all final permits are issued and all infrastructure to collect the feedstock is in place, the facility can commence digestor operations,” McDuffie said.

If the plant performs as expected, Kolb said, his company wants to build more plants near dairies in Chaves and Eddy counties.

“We are in hopes that, as we get this up and operating, we will be able to expand and put three or four more plants in the area,” Kolb said.

His company is a partner in bioenergy projects in Texas and other states. Kolb Grading has 50 years of experience on major projects, including recent work on the New Orleans airport expansion and a naval submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia.

According to the groundwater discharge permit, the plant is working with four nearby dairies: Arroyo Dairy, P7 Dairy, Three Amigos Dairy and Double Aught Dairy.

The number of dairies in the area was the reason the site was chosen originally, according to Chris Cortez, operations manager with Atkins Engineering Associates of Roswell. Cortez said he has worked with the plant and its various owners since it was first conceptualized in 2009.

Some of the original dairies are no longer around, but Kolb said that it intends to work with other companies in the area once the plant is operational.

“We’ve been talking to other dairies in the local area,” Kolb said, “and we will be reaching out to them as the demand comes for more feedstock.”

The plant can pipe in up to 350,000 gallons of waste a day from the dairies. The feedstock is then sent to lagoons and digestors to clean it and separate the methane from other gases. The methane is then purified to create marketable natural gas. Liquid “greenwaste” can then be piped back to the dairies for use on agricultural lands. Dairies often use the liquid waste produced on their sites for such purposes.

Cortez said that the original owner was a cooperative involving many different entities across the United States, including dairies. Several different ownership groups were involved over the years, including a partnership with Kolb and an engineering firm. That partnership ended, with Kolb the remaining owner.

Kolb said he has a strong belief in the value of the Dexter project.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Kolb said. “It is beneficial for the dairies. It is cleaning up groundwater and cleaning up air all at the same time. Those are all things that help in the area, and obviously we would not keep moving forward if the economics did not make sense.”

He said that he understands that area dairies are anxious for the plant to begin commercial production.

“We are right at the doorstep,” he said.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.