Ethanol Company Helps Iowa City Dispose of Tons of Trees

October 12, 2015 11:11 AM
E85 ethanol

The northwest Iowa city of Spencer is recycling more than 1,500 tons of wood waste by sending it to an ethanol plant to be burned.

The Sioux City Journal reports ( ) the wood waste will help power the ethanol plant, and it won't cost the city of Spencer anything to dispose of between 50 and 100 truckloads of debris.

The wood waste that accumulated in Spencer over about six months will be burned at a Poet Bio refining plant in Chancellor, South Dakota, over the next few weeks.

General manager Dean Frederickson said the plant also burns used shipping pallets and methane gas generated at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, landfill.

The ethanol plant has helped dispose of large amounts of trees after ice storms in the past. Frederickson said the plant burned more than 80,000 tons of wood after a bad ice storm in Sioux Falls a few years ago.

"We chipped it at the city and brought it in to burn instead of natural gas for more than three months," Frederickson said.

This approach to wood recycling might help Iowa cities deal with a mountain of dead ash trees expected from the emerald ash borer in the next few years.

"Disposal is an issue. And if we can make use of the material it's better than letting it go to waste. There's no doubt about that," said Rick Bauer, with Denali Power Systems, the Minnesota company is grinding up the wood in Spencer to prepare it for burning.

One of the byproducts of the recycling process is that the branches are ground down into debris less than 2-inches in diameter that won't allow the emerald ash borers to survive.

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