Highway 51 Revisited: Abengoa’s Kansas biorefinery, in pictures

October 19, 2014 |

When it is dawn over southwestern Kansas and in the chill of a mid-October morning the air is dry and the sun breaks from the east, the shadows are sharp, the land is still, and the Abengoa biorefinery dominates the skyline near Hugoton.

Lining Kansas state Highway 51 in mid-October, as the 25 million gallons cellulosic ethanol plant opens for business, are the last stands of preharvest corn, and the red and green swathe of Kansas grain sorghum that lays like carpet along the route west.

Also in the fields are the oil pumps that remind us the southwestern Kansas is oil country — and the The Northern Natural Gas line pops out of the ground every couple of miles like a prairie dog, reminding us that this is a gas hub as well.

Here in pictures, the perfect intersection between Kansas’ energy and agriculture businesses — the Abengoa biorefinery.

Corn stover – the raw material


The biomass supply — harvested, baled and delivered


Intake – 4 lines bring biomass into the facility and chop it into small pieces, ready for acid treatments and steam explosion to release the sugars. 2 lines are dedicated to fuels, one to power, one supports either.


Pretreatment — where chopped biomass becomes a stream of cellulosic sugars ready for fermentation, and a stream of lignin that will ultimately become renewable power when combusted.


“Fermentation Alley” – where specialized organisms ferment cellulosic sugars into ethanol.

Abengoa-fermetation alley

The compete facility – the tall tower in the back is for distillation, where the ethanol is purified and readied for market.


A rail spur and stock stands ready to bring low-carbon cellulosic fuels to the California market.



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