Lincolnway Energy converts Iowa facility from coal to natural gas

Ethanol producer Lincolnway Energy LLC said in a Dec. 9 earnings report that it was able this year to go from a coal-fired boiler at its facility to a gas-fired boiler. 

Eric Hakmiller, Lincolnway President and CEO stated: “We have been very happy with the performance of the business all year and the results that it brought us. We have been able to reinvest in the plant and position ourselves to be a strong competitor going forward.”

During fiscal year 2014, Lincolnway produced 56.8 million gallons of ethanol. During the course of the year, Lincolnway was able to make some critical investments in the plant including the installation of a natural gas boiler. This was the single largest capital investment in the plant’s history.

Hakmiller added: “For most of our existence we have run on a coal boiler and in the early years that was the cheapest form of energy for the plant. With the revolution in US energy production, which is producing record volumes and significantly reducing the cost of natural gas, we were happy to work with Alliant Energy, DuPont Cellulosic and Iowa State to build a pipeline and switch our boiler system to natural gas.”

Lincolnway’s facility is located on approximately 160 acres in Nevada, Iowa. Lincolnway began producing ethanol in May 2006.

This past summer the Iowa Utilities Board approved a permit for the Interstate Power and Light unit of Alliant Energy to build a natural gas pipeline that will in part allow coal-to-gas conversions of facilities around Ames, Iowa. This is a new 12-inch diameter steel natural gas pipeline approximately 13 miles long in Hamilton and Story counties, Iowa. The pipeline transports natural gas from a connection with a Northern Natural Gas Co. (NNG) pipeline in southern Hamilton County near Story City to an IPL Distribution Regulating Station in Story County near Ames, where the pressure of the gas will be reduced for delivery through IPL’s delivery system to customers in and near Ames.

The board wrote in its decision: “IPL’s Ames/Nevada/Boone-area customer natural gas requirements are significantly increasing in the near term due to the expansion projects of three IPL natural gas customers: DuPont, which is constructing a new 30 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol plant; Lincolnway Energy, LLC (LWE), an existing ethanol plant, which is converting from coal to natural gas; and the Iowa State University of Science and Technology Power Generation Plant (ISU plant), which is converting from coal to natural gas.”

The board added: “Public benefits from these three customers’ projects include that: 1) farmers in the area will benefit by being a source of corn stover needed for DuPont’s plant and will provide corn feedstock to the LWE plant for the production of ethanol; 2) the DuPont and LWE plants will reduce dependence on foreign oil; and 3) the conversion from coal to natural gas by the LWE and ISU plants will reduce the plants’ air emissions.”

Said the Iowa State University website about its campus power plant and compliance with new EPA regulations: “In December of 2012, a project was approved by the Board of Regents to replace the three older stoker coal boilers with new natural gas boilers and to modify the fluidized bed boilers as needed to comply with the new regulations while still burning coal. Design for the $38.0 million project started in early 2013, and the project should be completed in the fall of 2015, about six months prior to required compliance date, which would be spring of 2016. The new gas boilers will replace the older stoker boilers that have a lower efficiency and produce higher emissions. This project will reduce coal consumption by approximately 35% and replace it with natural gas. Air emissions from the power plant will be reduced significantly. Today natural gas prices are competitive with coal, but the university is exposed to more fuel price fluctuations by burning natural gas.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.