Community Fuels eyes infrastructure upgrades, new equipment

By Bryan Sims | January 19, 2011

Port of Stockton officials in California have reviewed the environmental impacts of a proposed expansion to Community Fuels’ existing 10 MMgy plant in Stockton and, according to CEO Lisa Mortenson, the results were positive. The environmental assessment went through a rigorous vetting process through the California Environmental Quality Act.

“It was a lengthy evaluation that looks at all the impacts of the [expansion] project, including traffic impacts, emissions, impacts on land, soil and other areas,” Mortenson told Biodiesel Magazine. “Thankfully, everything came back positively and it appears that we should have a Notice of Determination indicating there are no significant impacts of the project.”

According to Mortenson, Community Fuels intends to install 500,000 gallons of additional finished product storage, in addition to enhanced truck and rail loading capabilities. The expansion project would also allow Community Fuels to handle more volumes of biodiesel produced outside of the state and distribute it in the California market, in addition to its own fuel produced at Stockton plant. Community Fuels plans to leverage a $2 million grant it received from the California Energy Commission last year to help fund the expansion project. 

“The goal with the expansion is to load multiple trucks at once and get those turned around more quickly, and be able to load more rail cars quicker too,” Mortenson said. “We’ll have a much larger loading area that can load multiple trucks simultaneously.”

Although Community Fuels went through the CEQA environmental assessment process, it’s work isn’t done. Mortenson said the company will have to obtain permits that apply to the actual construction before it sends out bid packages for contractors to begin work.

“Since the project is being built at the same location as our current biodiesel plant, and since we have very good relationships with our existing contractors who built the plant that stands today,” she said, then “certainly, we’ll be looking to those relationships we currently have and, where appropriate, considering alternatives.”

Now that the federal blenders tax credit is reinstated for another year, Mortenson said she expects the Community Fuels multifeedstock plant to gradually increase production at or near its maximum installed capacity of 10 MMgy throughout the year, adding that production capacity wouldn’t be part of the equipment upgrade project.

“As it sits today it’s a 10 MMgy plant,” Mortenson said. “We want to see that we can increase [production to meet] capacity, and I hope 2011 is the year that we do that.”

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