Biodiesel industry sees activity despite recession

By Anna Austin | May 11, 2009
Despite the economic crisis, some producers are still managing to maintain a healthy business-and a fraction of them, in recent months, have continued to forge ahead with acquisitions, expansions and new projects.

Aspiring biodiesel/ethanol producer Four Rivers BioEnergy Inc. announced it has acquired V-Fuels Biodiesel Ltd.'s biodiesel plant and accompanying assets located on a 140-acre site at Blyth, southeast Northumberland, England.

It is the company's second acquisition within the past few months. In mid-March, Four Rivers acquired California-based Kreido Biofuels Inc. assets, which include Kreido's spinning tube-in-tube (STT) reactors and STT technology, as well as its modular biodiesel production plant equipment.

On Four Rivers' most recent acquisition, CEO Gary Hudson said the decision was simple. "The plant was available, and we were able to negotiate an acceptable deal," he told Biodiesel Magazine. Hudson said that although the plant is currently dormant, he believes it will soon become fully operational, offering plenty of scope for expansion. The technology accompanying the acquisition is multi-feedstock capable, allowing the utilization of a variety of feedstocks including used cooking oil.

In addition to these acquisitions, Four Rivers is also developing a project on a 437-acre site near Calvert City, Ky.,-a 130 MMgy corn-based ethanol plant co-located with a 35 MMgy soy oil-based biodiesel plant, slated to start operations in 2010.

"In Calvert City, we are arranging top-up financing, and are presently on schedule to start production in about nine months," Hudson said.

In other development news, Blackhawk Biofuels LLC recently completed upgrades to its 45 MMgy facility in Danville, Ill. The $12 million project included the installation of multiple feedstock pretreatment and production upgrades, enhanced laboratory and testing facilities and improvements for storage and logistics capabilities.

The Blackhawk plant upgrades, which were completed according to schedule, began in September 2008. The company said now the facility has the ability to process a wider array of animal fats, virgin oils and waste vegetable oils. Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group oversaw the upgrade project, and is responsible for managing plant operations and will market all biodiesel from the upgraded facility.

North of the U.S., Canadian Bioenergy LLC and Archer Daniels Midland Co. entered into negotiations to form a joint venture to construct and operate a 265 million liter per year (70 MMgy) canola-based biodiesel production facility at the site of ADM's canola crushing plant in Lloydminster, Alberta. The companies are in the process of undertaking a full feasibility analysis of the project.

Upon completion, the plant will consume an annual supply of 240,000 tons of canola oil crushed from 600,000 tons of seed. Construction of the facility is slated for fourth quarter 2009, and completion is expected within the first quarter of 2011.

Canadian Bioenergy has also engineered and received the required permits to construct a 60 MMgy biodiesel facility near Edmonton next to Bunge Canada's oilseed-crushing plant, but it plans to re-evaluate the project once a feasibility study is completed with ADM.
 
 
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