Front End

By Ron Kotrba | January 06, 2015

REG enters EU market, completes US projects

Renewable Energy Group Inc. and IC Green Energy Ltd. announced in December that REG, through a wholly owned subsidiary, will acquire ICG’s 69 percent equity ownership position in German biodiesel producer Petrotec AG for $20.9 million in REG shares. Petrotec is a fully integrated company utilizing more than 15,000 collection points to gather used cooking oil (UCO) and other waste feedstocks to produce biodiesel at its two plants in Emden and Oeding, Germany. Petrotec’s nameplate production capacity is 55.5 MMgy, produced predominantly from UCO. Petrotec’s collection service, treatment processes and production facilities are certified by both German and European regulators. REG European Holdings B.V. will also purchase ICG’s loan to Petrotec of $15.4 million. Closing was expected before the end of 2014.

“REG’s investment in Petrotec is a natural extension of our business strategy, which should enable us to better capture value from international trade flows and to participate in European biofuel markets,” says Daniel J. Oh, REG president and CEO.

In the fall, REG celebrated the grand opening of its Geismar biorefinery, which is now producing renewable hydrocarbon diesel (RHD) in commercial-scale quantities. The event marked the successful start-up of the 75 MMgy nameplate capacity plant that REG acquired in June. The fuel produced in Geismar is branded REG-9000/RHD.

“REG Geismar strengthens our core biomass-based diesel business, allowing us to further expand our product offering to our customers,” Oh says. “It reinforces our commitment to advanced biofuels and demonstrates our confidence in this market.”

The company also announced completion of upgrades to its 30 MMgy biodiesel plant in Mason City, Iowa. REG began the $20 million project in fall 2013, shortly after the company restarted the plant, which was purchased in July 2013. The upgrades enable the Mason City biorefinery to utilize multiple raw materials, such as inedible corn oil, animal fats and greases. REG also improved the existing frontend technology at the biorefinery that enables higher yields from free fatty acids in the production process. “Enhancing the plant’s pretreatment and distillation capabilities will enable us to take a broader spectrum of lower-cost feedstocks and produce a high-quality product,” says Brad Albin, REG vice president of manufacturing. “The increased feedstock flexibility helps drive greater demand for local feedstock suppliers and keeps more of their products in the Midwest.” The company was awarded approximately $2.5 million in incentives from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the city of Mason City for the project. At press time, REG announced it had also completed upgrades to its 30 MMgy biodiesel plant in Newton, Iowa.

Finally, REG expanded its division that sells heating oil and petroleum diesel along with biodiesel blends by offering additional biofuel blends in New York, Minnesota and Iowa, the company announced in October. REG Energy Services LLC will offer ultra-low sulfur heating oil and diesel (ULSHO/ULSD) blended with up to 20 percent biodiesel at its New Hyde Park, New York, terminal. In addition, ULSD blended with biodiesel will be offered at Minnesota terminals in Alexandria, Mankato, Roseville and Rochester, and Iowa terminals in Mason City and Des Moines. This adds ULSD to REG’s existing biodiesel offerings at those locations. This is the first time REG Energy Services will offer biodiesel fuel blends along the Magellan Midstream Partners terminal system in Iowa and Minnesota.

Biodiesel sector activity strong despite policy uncertainty

While 2014 has been colored by U.S. policy uncertainty, thanks to EPA delays in finalizing the renewable fuel standard and the lapsed biodiesel tax credit, acquisition, construction, expansion and optimization activities in the sector have been impressive. Here is a briefing of noteworthy activities that have taken place in the past several months.

Rendering firm Baker Commodities Inc. announced last fall that it has acquired a controlling interest in New Leaf Biofuel, a 6 MMgy biodiesel facility in San Diego. New Leaf Biofuel President Jennifer Case and her husband Tyler Case, vice president of operations, will work with Baker as general operators of New Leaf Biofuel.

Bridgeport Biodiesel in Connecticut is expanding production. Tri-State Biodiesel and its parent company, The Sustainable Biodiesel Company, partnered with New Jersey-based Lard-NABF LLC to purchase the plant in 2013. Brent Baker, operations director of the facility and CEO of Tri-State Biodiesel, says a new tank farm and another large process line are being added to take total capacity from 2 MMgy to 10 MMgy at the site. The project is slated for completion this spring.

BDI-BioEnergy International has been contracted to optimize the Crimson Renewable Energy LP plant in Bakersfield, California. The retrofit project will allow waste materials to be processed more efficiently and more sustainably into high-quality, ultra-low carbon biodiesel, and increase capacity to 22.5 MMgy.

Community Fuels in Port of Stockton, California, won a grant from the California Energy Commission totaling more than $4 million to expand its process capabilities.

The nation’s first biodiesel plant co-located at an ethanol refinery, Adkins Energy in Illinois, came online last fall. The project was engineered by WB Services LLC.

Stuart, Florida-based Viesel Skunk Works LLC has developed a continuous flow enzymatic biodiesel process in partnership with Tactical Fabrication and Novozymes that will soon be commercially available to the industry. 

Buster Biofuels is constructing a 5 MMgy enzymatic plant in San Diego and plans to open early this year. The plant will be the first enzymatic biodiesel production facility on the West Coast. See page 16 for more information on this project.

Appalachian Biofuels is building a biodiesel plant in Russell County, Virginia, in a joint venture with immobilized enzyme maker TransBiodiesel. Ahmed Tafesh, the chief technology officer at TransBiodiesel, says it is being built on a modular basis and will start at 9 MMgy and after 12 months expand to 28 MMgy.

Washakie Renewable Energy is doubling its biodiesel production capacity from 20 MMgy to 40 MMgy.
A Benefuel and Felda joint venture is retrofitting a 75 MMgy biodiesel plant in Malaysia formerly owned by Mission NewEnergy.

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