Proposal of Fortune

Several proposed biodiesel plants continue making progress
By Bryan Sims | April 21, 2011

The $1 per gallon biodiesel blenders tax credit was extended until the end of the year—check. There’s a federally-mandated renewable fuels standard (RFS2)—check. And biodiesel prices seem to be price-competitive to that of diesel. For several biodiesel project developers, the time is right to capitalize on these favorable economics. 

Near South Milford, Ind., Ultra Soy of America revived plans to build a 60 MMgy biodiesel plant. The project was initially proposed in 2007, but the downturn in the economy had kept it from finding investors needed to help fund the $165 million plant. The developers, however, are still trying to push the project forward and had been granted an operating permit by the Office of Air Quality, through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and more discussions are in queue to determine infrastructure and other issues, says to Keith Gillenwater, executive director of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation.

“We understand [Ultra Soy of America] has pursued this project the last few years,” Gillenwater says. “From a LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation standpoint, we’re certainly doing whatever we can to assist them to put them in the best position that they can be in to be successful with having special plant commission meetings, connecting them with more people and so forth.”

In the Pacific Northwest, Gen-X Energy Group Inc. is in the process of retrofitting an idle waste-to-ethanol plant to produce biodiesel and other biomass-based products in Moses Lake, Wash. A Burbank, Wash.-based biodiesel plant owned and operated by Gen-X was destroyed by a nonbiodiesel-related fire in 2009. According to Ramon Benavides, Gen-X’s co-founder and vice president of business development, the company has been working on this new project since that time. The first units for biodiesel production, according to Benavides, will have an annual capacity of 1.8 million gallons each and will expand with demand in a modular roll-out to 6 MMgy. The biodiesel production unit is skid-mounted, noting the design has been awarded a provisional patent.

The company was awarded approximately $720,000 in grant funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year. Final U.S. DOE National Environmental Policy Act approval has also been issued, according to Benavides.

“That grant was awarded for the development of a multiphase advanced biorefinery project,” Benavides says. “The biodiesel unit is one component.”

In addition to biodiesel output, the plant will feature glycerin refining capacity and an advanced chemical production unit. According to Benavides, the plant will eventually have capacity for cellulosic fuels production, with potential for algae-based biodiesel production in the future.

 Biodiesel capacity was expected to be commissioned in April, and reach full operational capacity by mid-May. The glycerin refining capacity was slated to be complete by summer, Benavides says.

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