CAMBRIA – An Ohio company constructing two facilities to convert food waste and sewage sludge into energy is seeking permission to dig a 10 million-gallon lagoon to hold the nitrogen-rich byproducts of the process.
Quasar Energy Group, which expects to open plants in Wheatfield and West Seneca before the end of the year, has talked to the Town of Cambria about digging the 5-acre lagoon in what is now a cornfield on Raymond Road.
Supervisor Wright H. Ellis said the town believes the field, farmed by the Hoover family, is an improper site because it is zoned for single-family residential.
Steven M. Smith, chief financial officer of Quasar, disagrees.
Quasar’s plans for a lagoon on Lockport Road in Wheatfield were discussed by the Wheatfield Planning Board but never approved, said Robert J. O’Toole, Wheatfield town attorney.
“We probably didn’t communicate enough,” Smith said. He said Quasar plans to attend work sessions of local boards and invite town officials to tour some of the company’s 10 Ohio locations during the week of Aug. 19.
Quasar’s processing plants, under construction on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield and on North America Drive in West Seneca, are called anaerobic waste digesters. Both received tax breaks from their county industrial development agencies.
Smith said they extract the methane gas from “biowaste” and use the gas to drive electric generators, whose capacity is 1 megawatt per hour. He said the company expects average electric production at about three-quarters of capacity, or 750 kilowatts per hour.
“We accept and process biosolid residual food waste, restaurant waste, fats and oils, sewage sludge, dairy, yogurt, Pepsi, beer – anything that was consumed at one time,” Smith said. “We typically accept and process it for less than current landfill rates.”
After the gas is extracted, the byproduct, called “equate,” is “a nutrient-rich alternative to fertilizer,” Smith said.
Last month in Marilla, Quasar sought permission to rent a 1 million-gallon storage tank from a farmer and use it to hold the equate.
Smith said the deal, still being worked on, would give farmer Stanley Travis, of Eastwood Road, first rights to the fertilizer, which Quasar agreed to spread on his fields in the first year. Smith said a similar proposal has been made to the Hoovers.
“The value of the nitrogen we guarantee in our material is $200 to $250 an acre,” Smith said.
One of the plants produces 40,000 to 45,000 “wet tons” of byproduct per year. One wet ton is roughly equal to 250 gallons.
Smith said 40,000 tons of “equate” is the equivalent of 10 million gallons of fertilizer, with a market value of $250,000 to $350,000.
“What they’re receiving is better than or equal to the commercial fertilizer,” Smith said. “If they do 10,000 gallons an acre, which is a reasonable amount, I could build a 10 million-gallon lagoon, and they’ll use all of it.”
Ellis said the Niagara County Sewer District has a contract with Allied Waste to haul its sewage sludge away, but Quasar has expressed interest in bidding on the sludge when the Allied contract runs out.