Minn. station owner discusses plant reopening, biodiesel mandates

By Luke Geiver | August 31, 2011

Rocky Trail has a lot to be happy about after the 30 MMgy biodiesel plant just six miles away from his truck stop and travel center recently began producing biodiesel again. “When that location first opened, we bought quite a bit from them,” Trail said. “It is very handy for us, especially with freight.” The facility, formerly owned and operated under the name SoyMor LLC, had been idle for the past three years. REG officially took over the refinery near Albert Lea, Minn., this year and began work to restart it. On Aug. 25, the Trails Travel Center was the first to receive a shipment of biodiesel produced at the plant.

According to REG, the facility already employs more than 20 full-time workers, five of which were formerly employed under the SoyMor Biodiesel LLC days. “It is good to see some good jobs brought back to our area,” Trail told Biodiesel Magazine. “I think the number they start with is only going to go up from there.” Customers will have the option to pick up B99 or B100 at the facility. Trail said his truck stop blends the biodiesel onsite.

Brad Albin, vice president of manufacturing for REG, said that bringing the commercial facility back online after such a long period of inactivity could be challenging, but the plant produced on-spec biodiesel in its first lot. “With nearly 15 years of production start-up experience, REG’s technology and process team is among the best in the nation.” REG officials also noted that the facility could be upgraded to process “a wide variety of lower cost natural fats and oils including used cooking oil, inedible corn oil from ethanol production, and high free fatty acid materials.”

Trail also spoke about the eventual switch Minnesota will make from the current B5 mandate to a B10 blend in 2012. “We get some pushback from fleets on the biodiesel in the wintertime, some warranted, some unwarranted,” he said. According to Trail, some of his customers did avoid fueling their fleet vehicles in Minnesota when the mandate, starting at B2, was initially implemented, but most of the problems were based on rumors instead of facts. “We had trucks with problems long before biodiesel in the wintertime,” he said. He added that many wintertime fuel issues are actually related to the changing of fuel filters or not draining the water of the fuel tanks. As for biodiesel, however, “from an operation standpoint,” he said, “we haven’t really experienced any difficulties with it.” 


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