Montana company receives grant for biodigester plant

Algae and wood chips will be converted to methane and organic fertilizer.

September 15, 2010

HELENA, Mont. - Algae Aqua-Culture Technology (AACT), a Whitefish, Mont., company, announced its receipt of a $350,000 U.S. government grant to stimulate the development of Montana’s algae-to-fertilizer industry. The grant, offered under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was awarded by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
AACT will use its grant money to immediately begin building a wood chip to energy and fertilizer processing plant in Columbia Falls, Mont., that will initially employ about nine people. AACT’s proprietary process uses a greenhouse-based algae growth system and an anaerobic biodigester to transform a blend of the wood waste and algae into high-value methane for power generation, as well as into significant amounts of organic fertilizer, said Kathi Montgomery, Montana DEQ public education specialist.
“Algae’s amazing productivity offers the ultimate path to a green economy,” said Michael Smith, AACT’s CEO and grant project manager. “This award is not only gives AACT the initial funding it needs to move into full production, it also gives the timber industry a new way to capitalize on the bounty of Montana’s forests while also reducing Montana’s carbon footprint.
“The AACT Green Power House (GPH) will help Montana create new, long-term jobs for the woods products industry and eventually for Montana’s farmers, factories, waste treatment plants and energy production facilities,” Smith said.
The DEQ awarded the grant based on the determination that AACT would be able to adapt its computerized biomass processing technology to the existing mill operation and forest products found at Stoltze Lumber Company mill in Columbia Falls.

Stoltze is a long-time, family-owned wood products company, which, like so many other Montana timber companies, has been searching for innovative technologies that will allow it to convert its wood resources into new product lines that are less affected by the boom-and-bust cycles of the American home building business.

"The AACT technology is clearly one of the most promising opportunities to help build, preserve, and diversify Montana’s forest products industry economic strength in the renewable energy field,” said Chuck Roady, Stoltze Lumber vice president.
The U.S. Recovery Grant is intended to stimulate economic recovery for the Montana economy. It is designed to help Montana maintain current jobs and to develop new long-term production and manufacturing jobs by applying successful technologies to renewable energy opportunities available on Montana’s timberlands, farms and factories.
AACT currently operates a demonstration site at the Stoltze Mill site just outside Columbia Falls, and the Recovery Grant money will allow it to begin building a full-scale, on-site, 5,550 square-foot Green Power House and to begin gearing up to meet an accumulating demand for both its organic fertilizer and for its Green Power Houses.