A Texas company plans to use 1 billion lbs. (454 million kg) of cow manure to power a plant that will produce 115 million gallons (507 million L) of ethanol fuel annually.

Dallas-based Panda Ethanol Inc. has received an air permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a planned refinery in Muleshoe, TX.

The facility will be designed to refine an estimated 38 million bushels of feedstock-grade corn annually into ethanol. The biofuel could displace about 2.6 million barrels of foreign oil per year.

Other ethanol facilities burn natural gas to generate the steam used in the ethanol manufacturing process, but the Muleshoe facility will be engineered to gasify manure, the company says. The method will save the energy equivalent of 1,000 barrels of oil per day, helping to address a significant environmental problem in the Texas Panhandle, Panda says.

Once built, the Muleshoe refinery should be equal in size to Panda’s Hereford, TX, facility, now nearing completion, which will be the largest biomass-fueled ethanol plant in the U.S., Panda says.

Additionally, the Hereford plant will achieve one of the lowest carbon footprints of any similar-sized ethanol facility in the nation, the company says.

“While we continue to remain focused on getting the Hereford facility on line in the first quarter of 2008, we are also prudently managing the development of our other ethanol projects during a period of market uncertainty,” Panda Chief Executive Darol Lindloff says.

“We fully intend to be ready when the markets rebound. The granting of the Muleshoe air permit is an important step forward in that direction.”

The Muleshoe facility is the fourth ethanol project announced by Panda to receive air permits. Panda says construction is dependent upon financing, additional regulatory approvals and other conditions.