Plants Diversify Businesses During Construction

By Bryan Sims | January 15, 2009
Many biodiesel plants have felt the economic pinch when it comes to high feedstock prices. Therefore, while in the construction phase, several facilities look for ways to diversify their businesses before they start production to ensure profitability and sustainable operations.

Spokane County Biodiesel considered diversifying its output stream by producing a fuel additive for trucking companies in addition to biodiesel from yellow grease. "We're thinking of adding two gallons [of additive] per 100 [gallons of fuel], which would give you a 2 percent blend and also raise the cetane level to about 1,200," said Chief Executive Officer Doug Bartlett. "It makes sense to be a boutique fuel maker and distributor in the market we're in these days. We're figuring out how to diversify to survive in this industry." In fact, the company's 1 MMgy project in Spokane Valley, Wash., was temporarily suspended due to a lack of financing, but the company expected to receive a $250,000 loan from the USDA in December, which would allow it to resume construction.

Macon, Ga.-based Alterra Bioenergy of Middle Georgia employed a similar diversification strategy when it introduced its new biobased additive Alterra DieselMaxx in October. The company, which operates a 15 MMgy plant in Gordon, Ga., and is building a 30 MMgy facility in Plains, Ga., has distributed the product in Colorado and Georgia. It's currently being sold at truck stops and auto parts stores in gallon jugs that each treat approximately 400 gallons of fuel.

In other news, Delta American Fuel confirmed that construction of its 40 MMgy plant in Helena, Ark., is complete. Initial production has begun, and the company hoped to reach full production by early February, according to spokesman Bernie Crowley. The plant, which will use animal fats as a feedstock, sits just outside Helena along the Mississippi River, approximately 70 miles southwest of Memphis, Tenn.

Interior work continues at Canada Inc., a 50 MMly (13 MMgy) plant in Sombra, Ontario. According to spokesman Steve Anthony, the company planned to install the first two of 10 5 MMly (1.32 MMgy) production modules in January. It intends to begin initial production while installing the remaining modules throughout the year and aims to achieve full production capacity by late 2009.
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