Wash. plant restarts biodiesel production, canola crushing

By Bryan Sims | July 28, 2011

After sitting idle for a year, Inland Empire Oilseeds LLC managed to restart production at its 8 MMgy canola-based biodiesel facility, including an adjacent canola crushing plant, in Odessa, Wash.

The plant is now under the direction of new general manager, Joel Edmonds, who officially took over the role in April held previously by Steve Starr. The plant resumed production in June and held an open house for industry and community members in July to commemorate the opening. According to Edmonds, the plant will operate with staff that had previously worked there prior to its closure last year.

“They have some really good guys here that already were very practiced in the art of processing biodiesel, so we knew it was just more about bringing a production mentality to the business,” Edmonds told Biodiesel Magazine.

With 19 full-time hired staff already at the plant, Edmonds said he’s also looking to hire two or three more staff members to operate the canola crush facility, which can crush about 90 to 100 tons of canola per day. Edmonds added that he expects the plant to continue operating throughout the remainder of the year in spite of uncertainty surrounding the extension of the federal biodiesel blenders tax credit, which is set to expire in December.

“We’ll be able to run through the end of this year, but we’ll have to see what’s in store for us with the uncertainty of the tax credit,” Edmonds said. “We believe we can still produce biodiesel with or without the tax credit, but it will be a whole lot harder.”

The Inland Empire Oilseeds plant first came online in November 2008. The company is a vertically integrated company and sources its feedstock within Washington and neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho, crushes seed and produces its own biodiesel.

“It also means we can sell vegetable oil to other people instead of converting it to biodiesel ourselves,” Edmonds said, adding that production of biodiesel could ramp up in the winter.

“There are some mandated markets around us that require it and pay premiums for canola,” Edmonds said, “especially in the wintertime as canola methyl esters are preferred over soy-based methyl esters due to its favorable cold flow properties. We’ll probably strategically position ourselves with a few of those key canola contracts in those obligated markets to at least guarantee some minimum volume going through into 2012. Then, we’ll see what the rest has in store for us.”

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