Feedstock research center opens in Iowa

By Ron Kotrba | August 19, 2009
Renewable Energy Group Inc. held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new research center in Ames, Iowa, on July 28. In his opening comments, company chairman and CEO Jeff Stroburg said the new laboratory and research facility will help advance "new technologies for the new bio age." In total, REG spent about $2 million in the center and received a $740,000 investment from the Iowa Power Fund. Story Construction, which used 11 subcontractors from the surrounding community, built the research center inside the company's headquarters located in an Ames industrial park.

A main priority for the research center will be development and commercialization of new, alternative feedstocks for biodiesel production. "It's a very difficult project to take 50 different feedstocks because every one of them converts differently," Stroburg said. "And we have to have more feedstocks than soybean oil."

More than 20 plant oils and animal fats ranging from the routine to the exotic are being studied at the new lab. REG biochemical engineer Shannon Sanford said some of these materials, such as Chinese Tallow oil, were not easy to obtain for testing and analysis. In total, seven full-time REG researchers work in the lab on feedstock commercialization, biodiesel production support, quality testing, and feedstock analysis. Some of the feedstock information learned will be made public.

Other research being conducted at the REG research center includes developing a method to detect sterol glucosides at levels below 50 parts per million. Parag Shah, REG research chemical engineer, said this work builds on Archer Daniels Midland Co.'s previous sterol glucoside detection work, which couldn't identify such low levels of the contaminant. Sterol glucosides are thought to be responsible in part for filter clogging due to precipitate formation in biodiesel at temperatures above the cloud point.
The scientists are also studying free and entrained moisture in B100, biodiesel blends and in ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD), to better understand the relationship between moisture and neat ULSD, neat biodiesel, and blends of the two fuels. This is said to be important work required to help increase biodiesel movement in the pipelines.

Stroburg said the new facility is not only being used as research and lab support for REG's network of biodiesel plants, but REG will also partner with other companies that need additional lab space. "There's a lot of lab space out there, but there's also a lot of demand for lab space," he said.

One of these partners is General Atomics, the San Diego-based company working with REG and the U.S. military to study how battlefield-derived waste plastic dissolved in biodiesel performs in gensets powering military encampments. The system includes a grinder that chews up waste plastics and dissolves it in biodiesel, which is kept at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit as the fuel is fed to the genset warm. The dissolved plastic makes the fuel higher strength, or more energy dense, than regular biodiesel. General Atomics is currently retrofitting a 60 kilowatt genset in Iowa just north of Ames. According to Doug Kostlan, REG manager of corporate business development, the genset is similar to those being used in Afghanistan today and is equipped with camouflaged paint to allow researchers to closely mirror real life scenarios during the studies.

Behind its San Diego headquarters, General Atomics has a large raceway pond it uses to study algae. The company will use the REG lab space to study and analyze 20 to 30 different species of algae.

Elevance Renewable Sciences is another company sharing REG lab space. Chief Financial officer Patrick Kelly said through metathesis, a process used to break down molecular chains in renewable feedstock to their more fundamental building blocks, the company can make a range of biochemical products to replace conventional petroleum-based materials. Elevance Renewable Sciences has exclusive rights to the metathesis process for all industrial applications.

-Ron Kotrba
 
 
Array ( [REDIRECT_REDIRECT_STATUS] => 200 [REDIRECT_STATUS] => 200 [HTTP_HOST] => biodieselmagazine.com [HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING] => x-gzip, gzip, deflate [HTTP_USER_AGENT] => CCBot/2.0 (http://commoncrawl.org/faq/) [HTTP_ACCEPT] => text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 [PATH] => /sbin:/usr/sbin:/bin:/usr/bin [SERVER_SIGNATURE] =>
Apache/2.2.15 (CentOS) Server at biodieselmagazine.com Port 80
[SERVER_SOFTWARE] => Apache/2.2.15 (CentOS) [SERVER_NAME] => biodieselmagazine.com [SERVER_ADDR] => 100.79.216.6 [SERVER_PORT] => 80 [REMOTE_ADDR] => 54.234.65.78 [DOCUMENT_ROOT] => /datadrive/websites/biodieselmagazine.com [SERVER_ADMIN] => webmaster@dummy-host.example.com [SCRIPT_FILENAME] => /datadrive/websites/biodieselmagazine.com/app/webroot/index.php [REMOTE_PORT] => 56920 [REDIRECT_QUERY_STRING] => url=articles/3669/feedstock-research-center-opens-in-iowa [REDIRECT_URL] => /app/webroot/articles/3669/feedstock-research-center-opens-in-iowa [GATEWAY_INTERFACE] => CGI/1.1 [SERVER_PROTOCOL] => HTTP/1.0 [REQUEST_METHOD] => GET [QUERY_STRING] => url=articles/3669/feedstock-research-center-opens-in-iowa [REQUEST_URI] => /articles/3669/feedstock-research-center-opens-in-iowa [SCRIPT_NAME] => /app/webroot/index.php [PHP_SELF] => /app/webroot/index.php [REQUEST_TIME_FLOAT] => 1516510044.097 [REQUEST_TIME] => 1516510044 )