Ireland's first biodiesel plant begins production

By Kris Bevill | August 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 10, 2008 at 9:07 a.m. CST

Green Biofuels Ireland Ltd. has commenced production at Ireland's first commercial-scale biodiesel production facility.

Joe Byrne, operations officer at the facility, said construction of the 9 MMgy facility began in March 2007 and was completed in June 2008. The commissioning phase began in June and full-scale production commenced on or about Aug. 20. So far, Byrne said the plant has produced about 1,600 metric tons of biodiesel and is currently operating at 80 percent of its capacity. He expects the plant to be functioning at full capacity within the next six weeks.

Location was key in Green Biofuels plan to build and operate a commercial facility. The site chosen in County Wexford, in the southeast corner of Ireland, is ideal for both importing goods and exporting biodiesel by ship. Byrne said the plant is multi-feedstock capable but is currently operating mainly on yellow grease and tallow, which results in a very sustainable product and gives added value to their fuel. Recently, the price has increased for waste oil and tallow but is still much cheaper than virgin oils, he said, adding that it also keeps the company out of the raging food versus fuel debate.

According to Byrne, Green Biofuels plans to sell its product to small distributors in Ireland and export the rest to the United Kingdom. Demand for biodiesel in Ireland is not great right now, he said, due in part to the "splash-n-dash" biodiesel being imported from the United States. "It's obviously cheaper than what we can supply so there's an issue there," he said, adding that it has been a big problem in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe as evidenced in the fact that the first commercial-scale facility in Ireland has just recently begun producing.

Byrne is cautiously optimistic about the European Union's recent announcement that it plans to take up the American biodiesel import issue at the United Nations, but doesn't expect anything drastic to change in the near future. "These legal things can take forever," he said. "We were hoping that something might happen by end of this year or early next year that might put an end to that, but it's dependant on how quickly the EU can really move and they tend not to move so quickly."

The $30 million Green Fuels facility was funded through bank loans and private investors, according to Byrne. "If we were looking for funding now we wouldn't get it," he said, adding that the project was financed two years ago before the market began to turn.

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