Biodiesel Plant Construction

Fighting the 'silver bullet' idea
By Craig A. Johnson | October 16, 2007
In April, Tyson Foods and ConocoPhillips announced plans to produce and distribute what has become known as "renewable diesel." The impetus for this move was ostensibly to market a product that burns cleaner and has many more positives than regular diesel. While this may be true, some in the biodiesel industry feel the real impetus was the $1-per-gallon tax credit that blenders can receive for mixing as little as 1 percent biodiesel into the product.

This is only one of many concerns that biodiesel producers, especially future producers, have as fall approaches. While some people blame fossil fuels for climate change, biodiesel producers find themselves in the uncomfortable position of reiterating that biodiesel is no "silver bullet." What so many seem to forget is that renewable fuels aren't a panacea, but a step in the right direction. Plants like Biofuels of Tennessee LLC in Decaturville, Tenn., may be small when compared with some producers, but the 10 MMgy facility, which completed a 10 MMgy expansion project in August, is still making a large impact in the local area.

On the other side of the capacity spectrum, the largest soy-based plant in the world-Louis Dreyfus Agricultural Industries LLC-started production at its 80 MMgy facility in Claypool, Ind. As many as 10,000 people attended the company's grand opening Aug. 21, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Also in August, Archer Daniels Midland Co. started production at the country's largest canola-based biodiesel plant, an 85 MMgy facility in Velva, N.D.

Four other plants started production since last month's plant construction list. Beatrice Biodiesel LLC in Beatrice, Neb., started testing its 50 MMgy soy-based facility in September. Alterra Bioenergy of Middle Georgia in Gordon, Ga., started commissioning at its 15 MMgy facility in late August. Mason Biodiesel in Westerly, R.I., finished construction of its 1.2 MMgy facility in July, followed by production in August. Last but not least, Prairie Pride Inc. in Nevada, Mo., started testing its 30 MMgy facility in September.

Critics are always available to point out the shortcomings in any form of progress. However, it is difficult to see how an additional 272 MMgy of fuel from renewable resources is a negative. When these facilities make good on their promise to produce cleaner fuel, the industry as a whole will benefit.
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