NJ biodiesel plant explosion injures employee

By Bryan Sims | July 13, 2010
Posted July 26, 2010

An employee of Innovation Fuels Inc.'s Newark, N.J., biodiesel plant was injured this month from an explosion of toxic chemicals when 100 to 200 gallons of sulfuric acid leaked from a 400-gallon drum inside the plant's containment area. The employee survived with third-degree burns to 18 percent of his body.

He was connecting hoses to a tanker truck filled with methanol when the sulfuric acid container behind him leaked and subsequently burst. Local firefighters evacuated a six-block radius upon responding to the incident, which occurred July 15.

The extent of the damage to the plant was being assessed a few days after the accident, said Malek Jalal, president of Innovation Fuels.

"We're definitely looking to implement stricter measures to prevent an incident like this from happening again," he said. "We're going to enhance our hazardous materials operations as well."

While the exact cause of the explosion is still being investigated, Jalal said he hoped to restart operations as soon as possible. The 40 MMgy multi-feedstock biodiesel plant started production in January 2004, initially having an installed capacity of 5 MMgy.

Formerly Eastern Biofuels LLC, Innovations Fuels uses multiple feedstocks to include animal fats, beef tallow, yellow grease and virgin oils such as soy and canola. The company has also developed pennycress and camelina crops in New York and Wisconsin.

Focused on its mid-stream assets, Innovation Fuels acquired a 310,000-barrel terminal at the Port of Milwaukee in December 2009. The terminal was originally built as Shell Oil's Milwaukee headquarters in the 1950s.
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