Eastman Chemical quickly expands biodiesel production

By | January 01, 2006
The U.S. biodiesel industry can welcome yet another state to its expanding list of biodiesel producers. Arkansas opened its first commercial-scale biodiesel facility in mid-October.

Eastman Chemical Co. sold its first load of biodiesel Oct. 27 from its Batesville facility located in north-central Arkansas. The company is already planning on doubling production to 6 MMgy, according to Administration Manager Gary McDonald.

The project required little capital expenditure for Eastman. The Batesville plant is what McDonald calls a "specialty chemical plant," producing chemical intermediates for a wide range of applications. Such products include pharmaceuticals, herbicides and custom chemical manufacturing.

cDonald emphasized that the decision to produce biodiesel was a site-based decision, not a full corporate effort. He said the decision was based on the availability of existing chemical processing facilities that had unutilized production capacity. There is also a limited amount of biodiesel suppliers in the area, so the possibility of filling market demand presented itself.

Eastman is currently using soy oil for feedstock, most of which is sourced within the state. Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart, Ark., and England Dryer & Elevator Inc. of England, Ark., are two of Eastman's suppliers. "We are sitting in a predominantly agricultural region of the country that grows a lot of soybeans," McDonald said.

The plant will eventually use waste vegetable oil and animal renderings to produce biodiesel. Using two different feedstocks allows Eastman to operate two separate batch processes at the same time, McDonald said. "If the feedstock is available, we certainly have the processing expertise at the site," he said.
With a specialty chemical background, Eastman's Batesville site should have plenty of uses for the glycerin formed during the biodiesel production process. One possibility is burning the coproduct in the facility's coal-fired heat generator.

McDonald said Eastman received a great deal of support from the state in its pursuit of biodiesel. He added that there is demand for biodiesel in Arkansas from the agriculture industry and on-road consumers. "Our primary goal is to be the primary supplier to this area," he said.
-Staff Report
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