Greg Northrup, president and CEO of VERBIO North America (VNA), spoke at a council meeting in January, giving a little overview of the company that purchased the former DuPont plant at the west edge of Nevada.
Northrup followed up with the Nevada Journal to offer more information about what’s currently going on at the plant and what lies ahead for this new Nevada business.
Northrup gives the following project overview: “VNA Nevada is the renewable natural gas (RNG) production facility… The entity is 100 percent owned by VERBIO North America (VNA) Corporation (out of Grand Rapids, Mich.), a subsidiary of VERBIO Vereinigte BioEnergie AG (out of Leipzig/Zörbig, Germany), a public German corporation and one of Europe’s largest bioenergy and RNG producers.”
Northrup said, “The location we have selected for this project will utilize DuPont’s previous investment in site infrastructure and meets our requirements for access to the natural gas transmission grid, high voltage power, major highways, feedstock sources and water supply.”
Feedstock, Northrup said, will be a major component of VNA’s production. “Our feedstock is baled crop residue procured within a 50-75 mile radius. We will utilize 90,000-plus tons of corn stover per year during the first phase of operations and are interested in other types of cellulosic material, including immature cover crops. Logistics consists of baling, storing and hauling — some growers will be in a position to perform all functions themselves, while others will rely on us or a third party to perform one or more functions.”
Northrup added, “We are happy to work under any set of options (with feedstock). We will never use manure, food waste or other odorous material in our process.”
When it comes to “process outputs” for VERBIO, Northrup explained, “We produce RNG and humus. RNG will be cleaned to pipeline natural gas standards and injected into an onsite natural gas distribution pipeline for eventual use as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquified natural gas (LNG) vehicle fuel.
“Humus, alternatively known as digestate, is a value-added lignin- and nutrient-rich soil amendment similar to peat moss or compost, which will be principally returned to feedstock suppliers and spread on farmland to replace the agronomic value of the crop residue that was harvested. Our process does not create any wastewater and we will not pollute ground or surface waters.”
As for water consumption, Northrup said, “We will use up to 50 million gallons of water per year during Phase 1. Although we will press the humus to recycle as much process water as possible, some water remains trapped in the humus and is ultimately spread on farmland in the region.”
Water for VERBIO will be provided by the city of Nevada.
At the council meeting he attended, Northrup talked about job creation at the Nevada plant, and shared that three employees are already on board at the Nevada plant.
Kathlyn Long is the plant administrator in Nevada, handling administrative responsibilities, including vendor relations, accounts payable, safety programming, records retention and other responsibilities.
Aaron Chadwick is the plant supervisor. He has overall responsibility for maintenance of equipment and systems, site access and security.
Kyle Morrise is the plant operator, responsible for maintaining equipment and performing other required duties as assigned.
Northrup said that during phase 1, which the company is currently in, “we expect to create 44 full-time direct jobs at the plant and another 100-plus indirect jobs in the local supply and value chain.”
He said job titles will include plant manager, superintendent, shift supervisor, mechanic, electrician, forklift operator, truck driver, sales representative, logistics manager, lab technician, accountant and IT support. “We expect jobs to be filled at an average wage of $28 per hour (and higher) and a median wage of $30/hour (or higher), plus (have) health and retirement benefits.”
In the truck logistics area alone, the company will employ round-trip trucking personnel (for stover bales/ humus) using specialized trailers, and ultimately plans to exclusively utilize clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.
“In part, we look forward to collaborating with DMACC Business Resources,” he said, for the community college’s jobs training program. “One of the primary components to successful plant startup is training; it is critical.”
Looking ahead, Northrup said, “as the Nevada site already has infrastructure in place to support ethanol production, we will evaluate options to produce ethanol and other value-added byproducts at this location in the future. VERBIO currently participates in these other markets in Germany. However, the initial focus for the (Nevada) site will be exclusively renewable natural gas production.”
VERBIO AG is providing all project financing for Phase 1 of construction, Northrup added. “No public financing, federal grants or bank loans have been sought. We have applied for incentives offered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and have pursued property tax abatement through the city of Nevada and Story County. Incentives are generally tied to achieving targets for jobs and wage rates.”