South Bend Ethanol to produce renewable natural gas

NOW: South Bend Ethanol to produce renewable natural gas

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The concept of renewable natural gas may seem like an oxymoron, but it's a fuel made from corn.

South Bend's ethanol plant is getting ready for a dramatic transformation as work is set to kick off in early June for phase one of Verbio's investment in the facility. It aims to create a biorefinery, the second of its kind in North America, they claim. Verbio celebrated a groundbreaking Thursday for the $230 million investment.

"Not only are we bringing in new jobs, but it's putting a focus on South Bend as a leader in clean energy," said Erik Glavich, South Bend's director of growth and opportunity.

Verbio is maintaining the current workforce of about 60 and adding almost 30 new jobs.

Corn is turned into ethanol and mixed into what we put in our cars at the pump.

"Every gasoline pump in the U.S. has at least 10% ethanol," said Charles Tuskan, Verbio's South Bend general manager.

The process of creating ethanol creates a byproduct-- a powdery corn stillage-- which can then be made into a plant-based gas, or renewable natural gas (RNG).

"They're taking the waste that is currently produced through ethanol production, and they're using that waste to create an additional product called renewable natural gas," Glavich said. "We're taking agricultural products and we're converting them into energy."

"We will process it to the same specifications and parameters as your regular fossil fuel gas," Tuskan said.

The RNG process will create another byproduct that can literally go back into the ground because it's fertilizer, making a closed-loop system.

"After this project is completed, they'll be producing more renewable natural gas here than anywhere in the country," Glavich said.

The biorefinery portion of the plant should be operational by 2026, Tuskan said.

This project was made possible by incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act and a city tax abatement.

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