The Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, which converts plant cellulose into ethanol, will celebrate its grand opening Oct. 17 with a visit from U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The plant was built to produce 25 million gallons of ethanol from nearly 350,000 tons of biomass annually. Most ethanol operations use corn or other grain kernels, rather than the cheaper and much more abundant plant cellulose, such as contained in corn cobs, wheat straw or switch grass.

The federal government in 2007 mandated the development of cellulosic ethanol as the next step beyond grain-based ethanol, but the technology proved more complicated and took longer to develop than the government expected. The Abengoa plant is part of the first wave of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant and the ethanol produced receives heavy subsidies.

The event will be 11 a.m. at the Abengoa Bioenergy plant, 1043 Road P, Hugoton.

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