Dump it today, drive with it tomorrow. That’s the promise of the nation’s first waste-to-ethanol plant, proposed for Inver Grove Heights. The $200 million biofuels plant would process Dakota County’s garbage into ethanol, to be blended with gasoline for use in cars and trucks.

If the plant works as described, it would make the county more environmentally friendly, said county Environmental Resources Director Georg Fischer.

The plant would be built by the Canadian company Enerkem Inc. and SKB Environmental Inc., a St. Paul-based waste and recycling company. The companies made a preliminary presentation to the Inver Grove Heights City Council in February but have not yet made any formal proposals to the city.

“There seems to be a potential for a lot of benefits, but there are also a lot of unknowns,” said city administrator Joe Lynch.

If the council and state and federal agencies approve, the plant could be operating by 2020, according to David McDonnell, Enerkem’s vice president for business development for North America.

The companies would build the plant near existing landfills, south of 117th Street and about 1 mile west of U.S. 52.

The plant would employ 100 workers and would pay Inver Grove Heights about $1.5 million annually in fees and taxes. “Economically, there is an attraction here,” Lynch said.

Enerkem operates two waste-to-ethanol plants in Canada. One is a small demonstration facility at the company’s headquarters in Quebec, and the other is a commercial plant for the 800,000-population city of Edmonton.

The Minnesota plant would be the first in the U.S. and would be twice of the size of the Edmonton plant.

Dakota County’s Fischer described how the plant could revolutionize garbage processing for the county, which produces 400,000 tons of garbage a year — half recycled and half going into landfills.

At the biofuels plant, workers would pick through the garbage destined for landfills a second time for recyclables, boosting the county’s recycling rate from 50 percent to about 70 percent, according to Fischer. The remaining material would be shredded into 2-inch pieces, heated and processed into ethanol.

The garbage-based ethanol, just like corn-based ethanol, would be blended into automotive fuels. The plant would produce about 20 million gallons of ethanol annually.

To read the full story, visit http://www.twincities.com/2017/03/18/inver-grove-plant-would-be-first-in-u-s-to-turn-garbage-into-ethanol/.