Vanguard Synfuels to hold grand opening of La. biodiesel plant

By Bryan Sims | August 04, 2011

Vanguard Synfuels LLC has given the 15 MMgy biodiesel production plant in Pollock, La., a new lease on life. To celebrate the plant’s reopening, the company will hold a grand opening Aug. 8 at the site of the newly refurbished facility.

According to Ian Lawson, director of business development, marketing and communications for Vanguard Synfuels, the company tapped Miamisburg, Ohio-based biodiesel process technology provider and producer Jatrodiesel Inc. for replacements or upgrades to existing equipment at the Pollock facility. One of the primary upgrades, he said, was the installation of a new esterification system, in addition to updated methanol distillation equipment, that will allow the facility to handle high FFA inputs—up to 15 to 20 percent—such as animal fats, yellow grease and vegetable oils like post-fermentation corn oil; something the plant was unable to do before the restart.

“We can run corn oil from ethanol plants since many of them upgraded their equipment to extract more of the oil that they don’t use in the ethanol process,” Lawson told Biodiesel Magazine. “Corn oil is high in wax, but we now have a process at the backend that takes care of that.”

“It has all the nine yards that’s necessary to operate in today’s industry,” said Rahul Bobbili, vice president of Jatrodiesel. Bobbili admittedly informed Biodiesel Magazine that the firm has not only seen an uptick in interest from those seeking Jatrodiesel’s services to restart previously idled facilities and help develop new projects, but ethanol plants are also expressing interest in the company’s offering to find ways to convert their distiller’s grains corn oil into biodiesel on site.

“Since RINs are playing a major role, they want to get more value for their product,” Bobbili said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the industry that can offer what we do.”

As for Vanguard Synfuels, the company will look to bring back online a biodiesel asset in Pollock that’s lived a checkered past. The plant, located on 320 acres on a site that was originally an ammonia plant previously owned and operated by Farmland Industries, was built in 1977. The plant ceased operations in 2001. In 2003, Vanguard purchased the site out of bankruptcy and built a biodiesel plant using mostly existing assets with many still there. After a short period of commercial operation in 2006, Vanguard became a public corporation with new owners. The new facility, then called Allegro Biodiesel Inc., was a public company with key Vanguard management that stayed on board. The company continued to operate the plant but then, in October 2007, Allegro Biodiesel ceased operations due to its parent company becoming an early victim to the economic downtown. This lead to the original investors in Vanguard to buy the company back in September 2008 and the firm has since worked on getting the plant back online.

The Vanguard Synfuels plant is currently the only operating methyl ester production plant in Louisiana, according to Lawson. Dynamic Fuels, a Tyson-Syntroleum joint venture, operates a 75 MMgy renewable diesel production facility in Giesmar, La.

According to Lawson, plans are to double production capacity by sometime next year. By mid-2014, the company plans to potentially expand further by utilizing utilize Fischer-Tropsch technology that would convert woody biomass into renewable diesel in conjunction to producing methyl esters—something the original group of investors (much of which were loggers and foresters) aimed to do when they retrofitted the old ammonia plant. 

“At that time, [renewable diesel production] wasn’t cost-effective,” Lawson said. “We’re going to go back to that. We have a lot of existing assets there and we can leverage those assets to expand the plant relatively easily and at low cost.”

Clarence Hawkins, state direct of USDA Rural Development in Louisiana, and Darrell Dubroc, CEO of Consolidated Energy Holdings LLC, will be attending the grand opening at the Pollock biodiesel facility. The USDA Rural Development will also host a roundtable discussion with business leaders across the state aimed to explore how federal, state and local officials can work together to spur job creation and economic expansion throughout Louisiana. This is part of a series of roundtables held across the country on behalf of the White House Business Council. 

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