A tour of Evonik's new sodium methylate plant

A brief summary of my trip to Mobile, Ala., where Evonik Degussa dedicated its new biodiesel catalyst plant on April 28.
By Ron Kotrba | April 29, 2009
I write this blog entry sitting in the Mobile, Ala., airport waiting for my return flight home to Grand Forks, N.D., after attending Evonik Degussa's sodium methylate plant dedication ceremony.

The 60,000 metric ton per year biodiesel catalyst plant will serve the North American biodiesel industry. Until now, Evonik Degussa has supplied U.S. biodiesel producers with catalyst made at its production facility in Germany.

The facility in Mobile uses a different process to make sodium methylate compared to Evonik Degussa's counterpart plant in Germany. The new plant employs reactive distillation with sodium hydroxide and methanol to produce sodium methylate; whereas in Germany the company utilizes electrolysis.

The occasion was a special one for Evonik Degussa, as evidenced by the entire board of directors being present for the event.

What was also interesting is that instead of spending $1,500 on ball caps and tee shirts to commemorate the occasion, the company stroke a couple of checks in the name of education, with $750 going to a local Mobile elementary school, and another $750 to a high school senior to help with her tuition at University of South Alabama to study physics.

For media in attendance, the dedication event included a tour of the bio-lab where the company tests its ready-for-discharge wastewater on sea urchins and sheepshead minnows, two local, south Alabama native species, before discharging its liquid effluent stream into the canal leading to the Mobile Bay. It was an interesting part of the day.

I had the opportunity to interview three Evonik Degussa executives, including the head of the alkoxides business line, Jose Berges. It was a pleasure to get their views on the state of global biodiesel production and markets, sustainability and more.

Until next week…