Positive developments continue in spite of tax credit situation

By Bryan Sims | October 25, 2010
While the absence of the federal tax credit is a major contributing factor behind the decision for many plant managers to scale back production or cease operations altogether, some see this time of crisis as an opportunity to restart idled facilities or propose new projects.

ME Bio Energy LLC reopened a 5 MMgy multifeedstock plant in Lilbourn, Mo. Formerly owned and operated by Great River Soy Processing LLC, the facility had been idle for nearly three years. ME Bio Energy took ownership in May and began producing its first batches of biodiesel in August, according to owner and partner Mike Ellis. Since ME Bio Energy restarted operations, Ellis said, approximately 14,000 gallons of biodiesel had been produced daily at the plant.

"It was in pretty good shape when we got it," he said. Stuttgart, Ark.-based Agri-Process Innovations made final startup repairs to the plant. "We had to replace some gaskets, motors, do some recalibrating and so on," Ellis added. "We also had to renew with the U.S. EPA and all the regulatory licenses. It takes time."

Under Great River Soy Processing's ownership, the plant operated for two weeks in October 2007 before it shut down due to rising soybean oil prices. During those two weeks the refinery produced 94,000 gallons of biodiesel. Ellis said plans are to expand the plant's installed capacity three-fold to 15 MMgy in the near future. Though the Lilbourn plant is the only one currently owned by ME Bio Energy, Ellis said the company is considering acquiring other idled biodiesel plants similar in scale and annual capacity. "They're not cheap, but we still see value in them," he said.

Biocardel Quebec Inc. received a seven-year investment worth $18.79 million from the Canadian government's ecoENERGY for Biofuels program for startup and operation of a 40 MMly (10.5 MMgy) multifeedstock plant in Richmond, Quebec. The plant, which broke ground in 2007, had been in R&D mode during the operation of the company's sister plant, a 4 MMgy biodiesel refinery in Swanton, Vt., that operated under the name Biocardel of Vermont LLC. The plant subsequently closed in mid-August due to unfavorable economic conditions. Biocardel Quebec General Manager Stephen Daigle said the Richmond facility is expected to produce commercial volumes by mid-October.

"We passed ASTM specifications for our biodiesel," said the elated Daigle, who previously served as general manager for the Swanton facility. "We transferred a lot of the equipment from the Vermont plant to the Richmond plant. We hope to branch out using animal fats and possibly using algae oil as well."

Meanwhile, Integrated Energy Partners Inc. proposed a biodiesel project to the Santa Rosa County Commission valued at $30 million, which IEP intends to build near Jay, Fla., after providing revenue bonds in the county's name. The proposed facility would produce a suite of biofuel and biochemicals such as green power, propane, kerosene and biodiesel, from various agricultural products. According to county commission documents, IEP intends to use camelina as feedstock during winter and cottonseed for year-round production of biofuels. Additionally, municipal and other waste products are likely to be utilized as fuels.

Initially, IEP plans to have an electricity generation capacity between 5 and 12 megawatts. According to county court documents, IEP's biofuels production segment would produce approximately 3 MMgy of biodiesel, 353,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol, 9 million gallons of kerosene and 437,000 gallons of propane.
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