Status of Biorefineries in Ohio

Dr. Ajay Shah, Assistant Professor; Ashish Manandhar, Graduate Research Associate; Dr. Sami Khanal, Research Scientist; and Dr. Erdal Ozkan, Professor; Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

What is a biorefinery?

A biorefinery is an integrated facility that combines processes and equipment to convert biomass to products, such as biofuels, bioenergy, biochemicals and biomaterials (Figure 1). The International Energy Agency (IEA) Bioenergy Task 42 defines a biorefinery as “the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products and energy” [1]. Most operational biorefineries produce one main product and several useful byproducts. For instance, ethanol is the main product and distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) is the main useful byproduct of existing bioethanol biorefineries. However, some biorefineries, mainly the next generation ones, can have more than one main product stream. This is achieved by utilizing various components of biomass that would be wasted if only one product is produced or by utilizing different biomass sources. For example, during ethanol production by fermentation, lignin can act as a barrier during fermentation and, currently, its usage is limited to generating process heat by combustion. However, lignin can potentially be converted to other higher value products. Such an integration would improve the usability of each component of the biomass feedstocks, which would consequently improve the economic feasibility of biobased products.

Figure 1. Conceptual biorefinery.

Biorefineries in Ohio

The agriculture industry contributed more than $11.2 billion to Ohio’s economy in 2014 [2]. Ohio has more than 75,000 farms and 14 million acres of farmland [2]. In 2014, Ohio farmers produced about 610 million bushels of corn from 3.46 million acres of land and 245 million bushels of soybean from 4.85 million acres [3]. All of these agricultural activities produce a substantial number of agricultural products, residues, animal wastes and municipal solid waste. While a major portion of these commodities is exported, a substantial fraction is utilized in different types of biorefineries in Ohio as well as consumed locally [4]. The availability of these biomass resources is the reason for the existing biorefineries in Ohio, as well as initiatives for the establishment of new biorefineries. Ohio has many biobased refineries that focus on different products, such as ethanol and DDGS from bioethanol refineries; soybean oil, biodiesel and soy meal from soy-based refineries; and biogas, which is converted to heat and electricity, and digestate for land application from biogas plants. The following is a brief description of each of these biorefineries, including summaries of Ohio’s facilities.

Ethanol refineries

Ethanol refineries convert starch from corn grains to ethanol and generate distiller’s grain, a useable byproduct. In the United States, ethanol is currently blended into gasoline fuel at rates of up to 15 percent for use in existing vehicles and up to 85 percent for use in flex-fuel vehicles [5].  Annually, around 3,400 Ohio farmers supply around 201 million bushels of corn to the seven ethanol facilities operating in Ohio (Table 1). These biorefineries annually produce around 548 million gallons of ethanol and approximately 1.5 million tons of distiller’s grain, which is used as feed for livestock [6].

Table 1. Ethanol refineries in Ohio [6,7]
Company Location Feedstock Product Capacity (*MGPY)
Guardian Lima, LLC Lima Corn Ethanol


POET Biorefining - Fostoria Fostoria Corn Ethanol


POET Biorefining - Leipsic Leipsic Corn Ethanol


POET Biorefining - Marion Marion Corn Ethanol


The Andersons Marathon Ethanol LLC Greenville Corn Ethanol


Three Rivers Energy Coshocton Corn Ethanol


Valero Renewable Fuels Bloomingburg Corn Ethanol


*MGPY – million gallons per year


Biodiesel refineries

Biodiesel refineries produce biodiesel by transesterification of fatty acids obtained from oil crops, such as soybean and rapeseed. Biodiesel is usually blended from 5 to 20 percent with petroleum diesel for use in existing vehicles [8]. Currently, there are two biodiesel refineries in operation in Ohio, both of which utilize oil from soybeans produced in Ohio (Table 2). Soybean is the largest crop produced in Ohio, with annual production of more than 200 million bushels [4]. About half of it is either exported or utilized by out of state crushing facilities, while the remaining half is used by in-state crushing and refining facilities as well as biodiesel refineries [4].

Table 2. Biodiesel refineries in Ohio [9,10]
Company Location Feedstock Product Capacity (*MGPY)
Cincinnati Renewable Fuels LLC Cincinnati Soy oil Biodiesel, Glycerin 60
PK Biodiesel Woodstock Soy oil Biodiesel 5
*MGPY – million gallons per year


Anaerobic digestion plants

Anaerobic digestion (AD) plants utilize multiple feedstocks, such as organic waste, municipal solid waste, wastewater and manure, to produce biogas (mainly consisting of methane and carbon dioxide) and solid digestate (rich in plant macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur, and organic material) [11]. Biogas can be utilized to produce electricity, heat and compressed natural gas (CNG), and solid digestate can be used to produce soil amendments. Many anaerobic digesters have been established in Ohio (Table 3), some of which were partially funded by federal grants that promoted renewable energy in rural areas of the United States [12]. These biogas plants have been effective in supplementing the electricity and heating demands of local wastewater treatment facilities, as well as odor reduction from agricultural and other waste facilities.

Table 3. Anaerobic digestion facilities in Ohio [13-15]
(Note: some of the information is not available for different plants, and thus, is left blank.)
Company Location Feedstock Product Annual Input (wet tons) Output/Capacity
Electricity generation capacity (MW) CNG eq. output (*gge/day)
Quasar Energy Group  
·   Ringler Energy Ashley Manure, organic residuals Electricity 42,000 0.80 550
·   Three Creek BioEnergy North Ridgeville Wastewater sludge, organic waste Electricity, CNG 42,000 1 1,800
·   Collinwood BioEnergy Cleveland Organic waste Electricity, heat, CNG 75,000 1 3,400
·   Central Ohio BioEnergy Columbus          
·   Buckeye Biogas Wooster High solids organic biomass Electricity, CNG




·   Dovetail Energy Fairborn          
·   Wooster Renewable Energy Wooster Organic biomass and wastewater treatment plant biosolids Electricity 100,000 0.81  
·   Haviland Energy Haviland Organic waste: biosolids, food waste, and manure   42,600 1 1,800
·   Lime Lakes Energy Norton          
·   Zanesville Energy Zanesville Organic waste Electricity, CNG   1 1,800
KB Bioenergy Akron Wastewater CHP, soil enriching pellets   1.2  
City of Wooster Wooster Wastewater, biosolids CHP   0.38  
Emerald BioEnergy (Renergy) Cardington   Electricity      
Tri-Cities North Regional WWTP Dayton   Electricity      
Wenning poultry farm Ft. Recovery Poultry manure Cogeneration      
Van Erk Dairy Haviland Cow manure, organic waste Electricity   1.2  
London WWTP London   Process heat      
Bridgewater Dairy Montpelier Cow manure, organic waste Cogeneration   1.2  
Toledo Bay View Park WWTP Toledo   Electricity      
Mill Creek Dairy West Unity   Electricity      
* gge - gasoline gallon equivalent


Biobased combined heat and power (CHP) plants

Combined heat and power (CHP) plants utilize fuel or suitable biomass sources to produce electricity and capture the heat generated during electricity production to reduce the heating requirements of the facility. Ohio ranks 28th in terms of total CHP installed capacity in the United States. Most of the CHP plants in Ohio are implemented in manufacturing and agriculture sectors, and utilize the waste heat from industrial processes as well as from the combustion of agricultural residues and biomass. Some CHPs also utilize biogas from anaerobic digester plants in Ohio. This factsheet only lists the CHP plants utilizing biobased feedstocks (Table 4).

Table 4. CHP units in Ohio utilizing biobased feedstock sources [16]
Company Location Feedstock Application Capacity (KW)
Bridgewater Dairy Montpelier Biogas from AD of dairy waste, manure Agriculture 800
Wenning Poultry Farm Ft. Recovery Biogas from AD of poultry waste Agriculture 600
Mill’s Pride LP Waverly Wood residue Furniture 1,000
Hoge Lumber Company New Knoxville Wood residue Wood products 3,700
Sauder Woodworking Archbold Wood residue Wood products 7,200
City of Akron Recycle Energy Plant Akron Wood Solid waste facility 2,000
KB Composting Services Akron Biogas from AD of biosolids Solid waste facility 335
Lima WWTP Lima Biogas from AD of wastewater Wastewater treatment 90
City of Wooster Wooster Biogas from AD of wastewater and biosolids General government 375


Geographic locations of biorefineries in Ohio

Figure 2 shows the location of biobased facilities, land use patterns (crop information derived from the 2016 cropland data layer, National Agricultural Statistics Service – USDA), and major highways in Ohio. The biorefineries are usually located in around agricultural and urban areas. Agricultural areas in western Ohio, which mainly produce corn and soybeans, generate high volumes of agricultural products, biomass and residues that can be used for the operation of these biorefineries. In addition, urban areas provide municipal wastes, which are used by biogas and CHP plants. 

Figure 2. Location of biorefineries in Ohio.


Future of biorefineries in Ohio

The future of biorefineries in Ohio and throughout the United States will be highly affected by four key factors: 1) the supply level and price of petroleum oil; 2) the supply level and economics of non-petroleum energy sources other than biofuels, e.g., solar or nuclear; 3) a stable and abundant supply of agricultural crops and feedstocks used in production of biofuels and bioproducts; and 4) support from trade organizations, as well as local, state and government agencies. The first and second factors may be outside the control of biofuels and bioproduct producers in Ohio. However, Ohio will continue to be a major biofuels producing state in the United States because it has a large supply of the agricultural crops needed for biofuels production. In addition, the continuing support of commodity groups and local, city and state government agencies that advocate and promote Ohio agriculture will enhance opportunities for Ohio farmers and entrepreneurs interested in the development of biobased products or services by aiding in policy promulgation and negotiation, identifying potential research areas and directions, and providing awareness and extension services.


Authors thank Dr. Harold Keener, Professor Emeritus and Associate Chair, and Mary Wicks, Program Coordinator, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; and Denny Hall, Director, OBIC Bioproducts Innovation Center, The Ohio State University for technical and editorial review of this factsheet.


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