Cargill makes plans for glycerin supply

By | December 15, 2006
Cargill, an experienced agricultural company but a relatively new biodiesel producer with a 37 MMgy plant in Iowa Falls, Iowa, announced plans to form a new company that will make a variety of bio-based products from glycerin, a by-product of transesterification. The name of the future company wasn't available at press time.

Cargill plans to commercialize a proprietary process that turns glycerin into propylene glycol (C3H8O2), a sweet, colorless, viscous, hygroscopic liquid used as an antifreeze, in brake fluid, and as a humectant in cosmetics and personal care items.

The company's Iowa Falls production facility also includes a 30 million-pounds-per-year glycerin refinery, which started operations in September, according to Glycerin Products Manager Rob Wolter. "Cargill already sells glycerin from its biodiesel plants, and has ready access through its supply chain and other sources to enough glycerin for world-scale production of [propylene glycol]," said Jim Stoppert, senior director of industrial bio-products for Cargill. "We are confident that our approach to manufacturing price-competitive, renewable [propylene glycol] on a large, commercial scale will be highly desired by the chemicals industry."

The Missouri Soybean Association and Cargill announced plans earlier this year for a 40 MMgy biodiesel plant and a 30 million-pound food-grade glycerin refinery adjacent to Cargill's existing soybean processing facility in Kansas City, Mo. The project is jointly owned by Cargill and Paseo Biofuels LLC, an entity comprised of Missouri soybean farmers. A Missouri Soybean Association representative said construction on the project is expected to begin later this month.

"We anticipate continued, steady growth in the [propylene glycol] market," Stoppert said. "Current capacities remain tight, and the fluctuation of propylene prices continues to batter the industry. These market dynamics create a ripe opportunity for a new, renewable and stable product offering."
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