Glycerin plant construction underway

By Timothy Charles Holmseth | May 14, 2008
In April, GreenHunter Biofuels LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of GreenHunter Energy Inc. in Grapevine, Texas, announced that construction of a 200-million-pound-per-year glycerin distillation system at its renewable fuels campus in Houston is nearly complete.

The main glycerin distillation tower was installed in February and March, the company stated. The initial installation of major equipment has allowed the commissioning of the entire system to begin, and commercial operation is anticipated during the third quarter of 2008.

Michael Studer, president and chief operating officer of GreenHunter Energy, said the new glycerin system will further diversify the company's revenue stream. The company's campus also includes a 105 MMgy biodiesel plant, 700,000-barrel bulk liquid terminal assets and a 45,000-barrel-per-month methanol distillation system. The biodiesel plant, which would be the largest in the United States, is in the final stages of construction, according to the company. It anticipated initial operation of the campus to begin in April.

Studer said turning glycerin from the biodiesel plant into a value-added product will play an integral role in the emerging trend of substituting biobased chemicals for fossil-fuel based chemicals. The system will give GreenHunter the ability to refine crude glycerin into a higher-quality distilled glycerin. Crude glycerin is 85 percent glycerin, 10 percent water and 5 percent salts. Refined glycerin is more than 99 percent glycerin with no impurities. It can be used to make pharmaceutical products.

Studer said the strategy being employed by the company is to exploit every possible revenue source available. He said the plan is to "acquire assets significantly below market in an effort to achieve superior returns on capital deployed."

GreenHunter and its wholly owned subsidiaries are involved in other bioenergy projects, as well. The company acquired an idle 18.5-megawatt waste-to-energy plant in El Centro, Calif., in May 2007. According to GreenHunter Energy's Web site, the project is in the development stage of engineering, budget establishment and the procurement of contractors in order to complete the refurbishment. Operations are slated to begin by June 30. The company may evaluate the feasibility of building a renewable fuels campus there, which would include a biodiesel plant.
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