Projects move forward in face of adversity

By Kris Bevill | August 08, 2008
As indicated in this month's Proposed Plant List (see page 38), biodiesel projects under development may seem to be few and far between. However, perhaps no industry is as persistent and optimistic in the face of challenges as the biodiesel industry. Particularly in the southern half of the country, several projects continue to develop and gain momentum in spite of tough economic times.

Pinnacle Biofuels Inc. started production in mid-May at its 10 MMgy facility in Crosset, Ark. It's the third biodiesel production plant to come on line in the state and the first to be located in the southeastern corner. Plant Manager Brad Dobson said things have gone smoothly since start-up and, aside from wanting feedstock prices to go down, the company is doing very well. The facility uses mostly chicken fat as a feedstock, which Dobson attributes to the plant's ability to begin and continue operation. The local community has been extremely receptive to the facility, perhaps because Pinnacle Biofuels was formed by four local businessmen, Dobson said. So far, the plant shows no signs of slowing production, and Dobson said there has been no problem finding buyers for the finished product.

Nova Biosource Fuels Inc. announced June 30 that it had begun commissioning of the final 20 MMgy train at its 60 MMgy biodiesel production facility in Seneca, Ill. Nova Biosource's plan has been to bring each 20 MMgy unit up to speed individually before commencing full-scale production later this year. At press time, the facility had produced at least 5 million gallons of biodiesel, using high-free-fatty-acid feedstocks similar to those being used by Pinnacle. Nova Biosource Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Ken Hern said his company will focus on cheaper, less desirable, nonfood feedstocks so as not to touch off a food-versus-fuel debate.

In Louisiana, a pair of fishing buddies relatively new to the biodiesel industry is aiming to begin production in January 2009. Sustainable Fuels LLC, co-owned by David Groner and Michael Valls, will build its first biodiesel production facility in New Iberia, La., near the heart of the U.S. oil industry. Groner and Valls said they plan to begin producing 5 MMgy using yellow grease as their primary feedstock. They hope to expand production to 20 MMgy as soon as demand allows. They plan to sell all the biodiesel produced at the facility to companies within 100 miles of the plant, including oil and salt mine companies-markets that they believe are untapped. According to Groner, many salt mine companies have shown interest in using B100 in their equipment for both the health and the environmental benefits, not to mention the added lubricity that biodiesel can offer to their equipment.

He said oil companies use diesel equipment on thousands of oil rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico, which would be near Sustainable Fuels.

Not all projects have been able to move forward. Kreido Biofuels Inc. announced in late June that it was suspending construction of its biodiesel production plant in Wilmington, N.C. The company cited the weakening economy, financial market turmoil and the company's own inability to raise capital as reasons that led to the project's suspension. "In light of current financing limitations, we must use our available resources to explore alternatives that will best enable our business partners and shareholders to benefit from our technology," said Chief Executive Officer Ben Binninger. "The company will scale back its operations and pursue opportunities to deploy its biodiesel plant equipment at alternate sites."
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