Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel gears up for production

By | September 01, 2006
Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel doesn't lay claim to the "Biodiesel Capital" of the United States, but it very well could. The Clayton, Del., facility is in the midst of starting up near two state capitals and Washington, D.C.

The 5 MMgy plant, which at press time was expected to start up in late August, is the state's first commercial-scale biodiesel facility. Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel is just 15 miles north of Dover, Del., and 60 miles northeast of Annapolis, Md. Another 33 miles farther west of Annapolis is the nation's capital.

De Smet Ballestra did the process design for the project while Fagen Inc. oversaw construction. The plant is Fagen's first biodiesel project to reach start-up. The Granite Falls, Minn., company is one of the nation's leading fuel ethanol facility builders.

Wes Berry of Process Technology Associates was a consultant on the process design. In early August, he said the plant was going through "the usual start-up routines and calibrations." Berry said the plant will start up using soy oil as a feedstock, but is designed to handle virgin and used vegetable oils.

The plant has been touted by the Delaware Soybean Board as a way to boost the area's soy prices. "The biodiesel demand continues to grow," Delaware Soybean Board Chairman Jeff Allen said. "The demand is there. We just need to get the supply."

Massachusetts-based World Energy will market the plant's biodiesel. New Hampshire's New Energy Capital invested in the project. "We think it's an excellent project," New Energy's Dan Reicher said. "It's a project with a lot of strengths-technology, location, feedstock availability and many other factors."

Reicher said there was plenty of political support for the project at the state and local level. That was apparent even before a shovel went in the ground. Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Miller attended the ceremonial groundbreaking of the facility, which was held in June 2005. "As a renewable energy source, biodiesel will decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and increase our energy security," Miller said at the event. "With volatile fuel prices and instability in the Middle East, supporting a homegrown alternative fuel like biodiesel is the right thing to do."

Those sentiments were heard clearly just 90 miles away in Washington, D.C., when shortly after the plant's groundbreaking, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed into law.
Biodiesel is catching on quickly in the area. With the aid of the Delaware Soybean Board, the state fair used 18,000 gallons of B5 in its equipment in July. More than 200,000 people attended the event. "It was a great promotion for biodiesel," Allen said.

Indian River Marina at Delaware's Seashore State Park began using B20 in early 2005. It was the first mid-Atlantic marina to begin using biodiesel and offering it to government and public entities.

De Smet and Fagen continue to ease Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel through its start-up. "While we have had our typical construction and start-up issues, both [companies] have been outstanding to work with, and I look forward to a long working relationship with them," Mid-Atlantic President Marty Ross told Biodiesel Magazine.
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