A Spanish company that a year ago chose this southwest Kansas town as the first site for a U.S. plant to turn crop residue into ethanol is still working on those plans.

Abengoa Bioenergy announced a year ago it would build a $300 million project that will include a corn-to-ethanol plant, which will provide farmers with more profit without more crop production.

Tom Robb, Abengoa’s manager of co-product development, announced the company’s latest plans at a series of recent meetings. He has aimed to educate farmers so he can get them to contract land with the company.

“I’m always interested in extra income,” said Theron Walker, who farms in Seward County near Kismet. “It could be a second income on the same crop.”

The company has invested more than $20 million in the design and planning of the Kansas plant. It has said it will invest more than $500 million in the next five years in cellulosic biofuels. Construction will be buoyed by a $76.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Robb said.

“It’s an ambitious project, but it is on its way to coming to fruition,” Robb told The Hutchinson News.

The facility will provide an influx of 500 workers during a two-year construction phase, slated to start next spring, said Tom Robb, Abengoa’s manager of co-product development.

They will build the hybrid plant, which will produce 88 million gallons of ethanol and 12 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year. Once operational, the plant would employ at least 100 with a payroll of $5.5 million, officials have stated.

Many residents of Hugoton are excited by the prospect.

“It seemed like we have gone quite a long time without any type of development,” said Doug Martin, who runs a local trucking firm and is on the county’s economic development board. “Now we are at the forefront of a project this size, being on the start of something new. That is always exciting.”

About 170 plants churn out corn-based ethanol. But few produce it from crop residue, a somewhat new territory that Abengoa is trekking.

It’s a prospect that could be beneficial for farmers willing to invest in this new venture.

Much of the operation will be grain ethanol product, with the plant producing 88 million gallons of grain ethanol a year. However, Robb said, he needs to secure about 490,000 tons of biomass a year to produce about 12 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol. The plant would receive product from a 50-mile radius.

The new farm bill has incentives in a biomass program that pays farmers and companies to produce the crop. Called the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the initiative calls for a $1.01 tax credit for biomass-derived ethanol.

The bill also would appropriate money to loan to biomass refineries.