Mid-Altlantic Biodiesel breaks ground

By | October 01, 2004
Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel LLC is one step closer to becoming the first biodiesel facility in the mid-Atlantic region. The company is preparing to build a 5-mmgy-biodiesel plant in Clayton, Del., where it held a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 20 attended by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.
At press time, the company still needed two permits; Mid-Atlantic President Martin Ross said the plant probably wouldn't begin major construction until the end of October. The facility is expected to be on line by fall 2005.

The plant would use 60 million bushels of soybeans per year, although it will also have the capability to use recycled cooking oil. Ross said the company chose a multi-feedstock design in order to ensure access to reasonably priced feedstock supplies.
The idea of building a biodiesel plant first arose nearly four years ago when Ross worked on an exploratory committee researching the possibility. In April 2000, then Gov. Thomas Carper announced the use of biodiesel in Delaware state fleet vehicles. Biodiesel is available commercially at four public fueling stations in the state.

The plant will be located on a six acre abandoned rail yard. "We can turn an eyesore into something that is not only attractive but provides an economic benefit," Ross said.

Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Mike Scuse lives near Clayton and was first to recommended the site. Ross and Scuse met with the mayor and city representatives and let them know the site would be a good fit.

Mid-Atlantic then held several community meetings to address concerns about the plant. "All went well," Ross said. "It's been a very good community. Mayor [Robert] Berghorn has been very receptive. We feel very comfortable."

De Smet Process Technology Inc. has completed the engineering for the plant. The Belgium-based company is the largest supplier of equipment in the world for the oleochemical industry. Tim Kemper, president and CEO of De Smet's U.S.-based office, said his company was trying to get an early start in the U.S. biodiesel industry after missing out on much of the European market. They've already worked with modifying existing biodiesel plants, Kemper said.

"For us, it's a perfect fit," he said. "We want to become significant players in this business."

id-Atlantic has received a boost from a $5.5 million federal funding package from USDA Rural Development. A $500,000 federal energy efficiency improvement grant is included in the package. An earlier $60,000 USDA grant helped fund the feasibility study.
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