Dynamic Fuels selects Emerson as process control provider

By Nicholas Zeman | August 19, 2009
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Posted August 25, 2009

Using volatile hydrogen gas to convert animal fats and other waste materials into renewable diesel can be intense-even dangerous-so a reliable process control system is essential to an operation's overall safety and success.

Dynamic Fuels LLC, a 75 MMgy renewable diesel plant currently under construction in Geismar, La., is a 50-50 joint venture between Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum Corp. that will use automation and process control technology designed by Emerson Process Management of Austin, Texas. "This is a hydrotreating plant, which involves high temperatures, high pressures and catalytic reactors, in addition to handling hydrogen gas," said Jeff Bigger, president of Syntroleum. "So process controls are very important."

Emerson's PlantWeb digital plant architecture, which will be integrated into the Dynamic Fuels facility, networks an automation system and predictive maintenance software with smart devices installed throughout the operation, including control valves, flow meters and temperature transmitters. But for Emerson this is not unfamiliar territory-the company has worked with Syntroleum since 2000 when they outfitted a pilot syngas plant. "We have a long relationship with them," Bigger told Biodiesel Magazine. "They have a very robust system, they're very cost competitive and have a design that can be exported to other locations. That's one of the things we get with this system-it's scalable."

The $138 million project is scheduled to begin operations in 2010, and is currently about 54 percent mechanically complete. "There is a huge amount of equipment moving around on site and we still plan to be finished by the end of the year," Bigger said.

Tyson will supply the feedstocks for the production of renewable diesel, which will either come from its own equity or will be purchased from third parties in the local area. These lower quality animal fats and greases will be converted into "ultra-clean" renewable diesel that does not involve petroleum in the process. This is unlike the now defunct partnership between Tyson and ConocoPhillips that would have involved coprocessing a small amount of fats with crude oil at a ConocoPhillips facility. "This is a brand new free-standing plant that does not involve any coprocessing with petroleum, but the exclusive hydrogenation of animal fats into renewable diesel," Bigger said.

Syntroleum currently licenses its Fischer Tropsch based technology to a Chinese company in a landmark sale that boosted investor confidence in its core product. Syntroleum stock is currently trading at $2.84-per-share, up nearly 430 percent from its initial public offering price.
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