Revived Calif. plant celebrates low-carbon biodiesel production

By Western Iowa Energy LLC | February 21, 2018

A shuttered Monterey Bay-area plant has opened its doors again, manufacturing a cleaner-burning biofuel that will help meet California’s low carbon fuel demands. An open house and ribbon-cutting Feb. 21 drew supporters from the Midwest to the West Coast to celebrate the reopening of Agron Bioenergy, a biodiesel production facility in Watsonville, California.

Western Iowa Energy LLC, based in Wall Lake, Iowa, recently purchased the Watsonville plant that was idled in 2016.

Biodiesel, a fuel for diesel engines, significantly reduces greenhouse gases compared to fossil fuels. This makes biodiesel an important strategy in meeting California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The California Air Resources Board affirms biodiesel reduces greenhouse gases by at least 50 percent, and often by as much as 81 percent compared to petroleum. This gives biodiesel some of the best carbon scores among all liquid fuels.

This marks the first time WIE has expanded its operations outside of the state of Iowa.

“The Low Carbon Fuel Standard has made California the epicenter for biodiesel demand, and that drove our decision to expand outside of Iowa,” said Brad Wilson, WIE president and general manager. “Our access to affordable agricultural materials that score low on carbon intensity and our desire to participate in the growing California biodiesel market made this facility purchase a good business decision.”

Biodiesel, recognized as an advanced biofuel by the U.S. EPA, can be made from virtually any fat or vegetable oil. The materials the Iowa plant turns into biodiesel include soybean oil, recycled cooking oil and animal fats left over from meat production.

The Iowa plant has the capacity to produce 45 MMgy of biodiesel, while the Agron facility can produce 15 MMgy.

Watsonville city council members and a Santa Cruz County supervisor were among the local dignitaries who attended.

“The reopening of the Agron plant represents an opportunity to expand the city and state’s commitment to the environment and economy, and we’re proud to be a part of that,” said WIE Chairman Bill Horan, who noted it will provide about 18 full-time skilled jobs to area workers.


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