- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Waste to Energy Group, the perpetually cash-strapped California company that has promised to convert Knott Landfill waste into energy, is looking for an extension from Deschutes County to start its proposed multimillion renewable energy project in Bend.

In January 2014, Deschutes County commissioners OK’d a 15-year deal with Waste to Energy to turn natural gas below the landfill into liquid fuel. The county was set to receive at least $240,000 a year from Waste to Energy or 4 percent of the company’s gross profits from the project, whichever number was greater. With the startup costs estimated to be at least $20 million - all of which are the responsibility of Waste to Energy - the county gave the renewable energy company 18 months to start construction before the deal became null and void.

That deadline is Aug. 3 and Waste to Energy has yet to break ground on any part of the project.

“They’ve been trying to secure a huge amount of financing,” said Timm Schimke, Deschutes County’s solid waste manager, on Tuesday. “They’re doing that now.”

If Waste to Energy can prove it has all of its financial backing before Aug. 3, Schimke said the county would likely work out an extension to keep the project alive.



“We’ll likely stipulate a number of requirements they have to meet,” said Schimke, who has been working with Waste to Energy and its CEO, Randy Lutz, on the proposed renewable energy deal since 2011. “They’ll probably have to show some legal documents that they have the financing. We’ll probably tie the extension to meeting certain milestones on a schedule.”

Lutz, who in February told The Bulletin he expected to have “boots on the ground” in six to eight weeks, could not be reached for comment.

“At this point, I’ll personally start watching this close,” said Deschutes County Commission chairman Tony DeBone. “Either we’re moving or we need to unplug and look at other possibilities.”

The county has been particularly patient with Lutz because of the project’s lucrative potential. Waste to Energy proposes using a recycle conversion process that would inject steam under the landfill surface, therefore speeding up waste decomposition. The methane gas produced from the process would be converted into pipeline-quality gas, methanol or ethanol, depending on which market was most attractive. More traditional waste-to-energy projects harvest methane gas and run it through combustible engines, turning it into electricity.

“We’ve been looking at a gas-to-energy project for a long time,” Schimke said. “What we’ve found is that our landfill is relatively small and with the arid climate we have, it doesn’t crank out the kind of gas in which developers line up to do something.”

The county’s fast-approaching August deadline isn’t the first hurdle Waste to Energy has hit while trying to line up the Knott Landfill project. In March, The Bulletin published a report that found Waste to Energy had inflated its claims about potential energy buyers and that the firm the county hired to conduct an independent review of the project had several connections to Lutz and his renewable energy company.

“I guess there’s a chance we can’t pull this together in time,” Schimke said. “But that’d be a shame.”

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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