Industry Makes Headway Amid Financial Turmoil

By Bryan Sims | October 14, 2008
Biodiesel plants under construction are faced with a plethora of pressures associated with the project development and construction process: feedstock costs and availability, building material costs and availability, project deadlines, equipment delivery deadlines, etc. These challenges are compounded by macroeconomic factors such as the federal government's solution to a financial crisis that has plagued the U.S. economy for the past several months. The unfortunate circumstance has not only resonated within the housing market and general public, but the lack of funding available in the liquidity markets has also made it difficult for future biodiesel producers to gain additional funding for building materials, employee salaries and so forth.

Despite the inevitably challenging building climate, there are two new additions to this month's plant construction list, which brings the total number of plants under construction to 17 with a combined production capacity of 365 MMgy. Both were discovered while compiling data for BBI International Inc.'s biannual biodiesel plant wall map.

Channel Chemical Corp. is in the process of building a 20 MMgy, multi-feedstock production plant in Gulfport, Miss. The company, which has been producing fuel oil chemicals for nearly 20 years, plans to start biodiesel production at an initial rate of 5 MMgy by the end of the year, according to spokesman Brian Reid. He said plans are to increase to full capacity in early 2009.

Simple Fuels Biodiesel, a 2 MMgy facility in Vinton, Calif., intends to use yellow grease as its primary feedstock. According to a company spokesman, fittings for various pipe components and storage tank parts were en route to the site at press time in preparation for start-up in early November. The project recently resumed construction despite delays attributed to permitting issues during the initial design and development work, which began in 2005.

As previously mentioned, Biodiesel Magazine's editorial staff completed its 2008 U.S. and Canada Fall Biodiesel Plant Map in late September. We confirmed that 113 plants are currently producing. Although not all are producing at full capacity, they equal a potential combined capacity of 1.85 billion gallons. We also confirmed that 31 plants with a total production capacity of 409 MMgy are currently idle. Several cited high feedstock costs as the reason. There were 21 plants that our staff attempted to contact with no response. These facilities, labeled "unconfirmed" on the map, represented 392 MMgy of production capacity.

Some interesting, but perhaps expected, changes became apparent after compiling the map data. For example, the number of plants using multiple (more than two) feedstocks rose to 55 percent, overtaking soy oil (30 percent) for the first time. These statistics exclude unconfirmed plants.

The map has been mailed as a supplement to the November issue of Biodiesel Magazine. A rolled wall map may be purchased through BBI International's store at
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