Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

Sen. Udall tours planned facility

The waste-to-energy plant may create as many as 20 jobs.


Steve Hansen

Bob Hockaday explains a device in the old Tucumcari ethanol plant to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, on a plant tour. Hockaday plans to convert the plant into a waste-to-energy facility.

To Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the waste-to-energy facility planned for Tucumcari's old ethanol plant is part of the solution to the current economic depression of New Mexico and rural America.

On July 5, Udall toured the facility with Tucumcari's Bob Hockaday, the scientist who plans to develop the waste-to-energy plant, and local officials.

In an interview after the tour, Udall said the planned waste-to-energy facility is a prime example of the kind of action that could pull New Mexico and the rural U.S. out of their current economic stagnation.

It combines a new agriculture-based business opportunity with a continuing need for renewable energy and could be a major step in making New Mexico "a big renewable energy exporter," when added to existing solar and wind energy installations, Udall said.

In addition, he said, he learned the facility may create as many as 20 skilled labor jobs.

The feedstock for the plant would be cattle manure collected at feedlots in eastern New Mexico and West Texas, Hockaday said.

Removing manure from feedlots, he said, could help preserve groundwater quality by preventing contaminants from leaking into the soil.

The Hereford, Texas, area will be an especially plentiful source, Hockaday said.

Hockaday is planning to convert plant equipment designed for ethanol manufacturing, including large processing and storage tanks, for pulverizing then processing manure and maybe some food waste to produce methane gas for motor fuel and carbon dioxide for greenhouses.

Hockaday purchased the ethanol plant in May 2016 with $87,200 he received in Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds, which are provided through a special gross receipts tax paid by Tucumcari residents and businesses.

Earlier, Hockaday, a former physicist with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, had received a $50,000 planning grant through LEDA.

In addition to plentiful manure supplies, Hockaday said his process will use acidic wastewaster from the Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory, which will make use of cheese-processing waste that can potentially cause problems at Tucumcari's wastewater treatment plant.

Hockaday said the plant should produce fuel for the trucks that will haul manure to the facility and haul away the solids remaining after processing, while recycling greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

David White, a Tucumcari resident, has plans for the carbon dioxide. White intends to construct greenhouses next to the plant in which he plans to produce vegetables and food fish in a process called 'aquaculture."

The plants will be raised without soil in nutrient-enriched water surrounded by a carbon-dioxide enriched atmosphere, he said. The fish will help keep the water clean and productive while they grow, White said.

Udall said he was especially glad to hear about the waste-to-energy plans directly from Hockaday.

"He knows the science and the water and energy problems," Udall said.

He added he would like to see more ideas designed to assist the state's economy emerge from the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.


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