Rock County will not be home to the Nature Energy biogas plant that considered expanding locally earlier this year.
Nor will any other place in the United States after Shell Petroleum purchased the Denmark-based Nature Energy company.
Nature Energy officials visited Luverne and Rock County in January seeking a location for one of 15 renewable natural gas refineries they planned to build in the United States by 2026.
Shell formally purchased Nature Energy in February and on Friday announced Nature Energy’s expansion plans in the U.S. have changed.
“Nature Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell plc (Shell), has strategically suspended all of its projects in the United States,” the company announced.
“In line with efforts to deliver maximum value, we consistently review our portfolio projects to ensure the prudent commercial course is achieved.”
This news was disappointing to local officials who had hoped the company would grow its assets in Rock County.
“They (Nature Energy) thought it would be handled differently,” said County Administrator Kyle Oldre.
While 15 of the large biogas plants (located in Denmark and France) successfully extract natural gas from cattle manure, there are no plants in the U.S. that use that process.
“People knew it was new technology and knew it was a bit of a chance of coming to the U.S. and Rock County,” Oldre said. “We’ll wait for the next opportunity.”
A local delegation traveled to Denmark in March to view the operations from farm to plant.
Delegation members agreed that Nature Energy would be a good neighbor and its leaders would be people they could work with if Luverne or Rock County was chosen as an expansion site.
“Although we’re disappointed, we are respectful of their decision to suspend project plans,” said Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian. “We will wait — not for too long a time period — for when or if they decide to resume their plans.”
Nature Energy officials visited several potential sites in southwest and southern Minnesota looking for cities and counties open to a manure processing plant operating within their borders.
“They had a strong welcome from Luverne and Rock County,” Baustian said.