Elevance to convert idle biodiesel plant

By Erin Voegele | June 10, 2011

Bolingbrook, Ill-based Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. has announced the acquisition of an idle biodiesel plant in Natchez, Miss. The former Delta Biofuels facility, which featured an 80 MMgy production capacity, will be converted and retrofitted with Elevance’s technology.  Upon completion, the site will feature a world scale biorefinery and derivatives operation that will produce renewable specialty chemicals for use in personal care products, detergents, plastics and lubricants. Elevance estimates the multi-phase conversion will require an investment of $225 million. In addition, the company said it expects the project to create 165 fulltime jobs over the next five years, with an additional 300 construction jobs during the conversion period.

Elevance plans to expand the existing 800,000-square-foot facility in multiple phases over the next five years. According to Andy Shafer, the company’s executive vice president of sales and marketing development, no specific timeline for the conversion is currently available. “We need to get our team into the facility to really understand…what all the details of the facility and its capabilities are so that we can integrate those into the plans for conversion and retrofitting,” he said. “Until we can get that done we don’t have a schedule or timeline for what the phases will look like.” He also notes that the future production capacity of the plant has not yet been released.

When complete, the biorefinery is expected to produce olefins, specialty chemicals and oleochemicals via Elevance’s proprietary technology. “We believe the site will be a biorefinery and derivatives operation,” Shafer said. “For some of the biorefinery products there will be downstream conversion—either by Elevance or by some of our customers—that will be located there at the site.”

According to Shafer, there are several reasons why the Delta Biofuels facility was an attractive option for acquisition. From our standpoint, one of the most important features of the plant was the availability of a talented workforce, he said. The logistics of the facility are also strong, allowing for easy access to barge, rail and road transportation. Regarding the physical footprint of the plant, Shafer notes that there is ample area surrounding the facility to allow for retrofit and conversion as well as space to establish derivatives operations. “It’s a really nice structure from a footprint, logistics and workforce standpoint,” he continued. In addition, Shafer said the support from state and local officials has been impressive.

“Elevance’s decision to locate here in Mississippi results in a significant investment in the area and its economy, as well as in the local workforce,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. “Job creation and retention is vital to a healthy economy, and I thank the company for creating these new jobs for southwest Mississippi’s residents. I am delighted to welcome Elevance to Natchez and Adams County.”

The Mississippi Development Authority worked with officials from Elevance and local governments to help facilitate the project. Through the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund, MDA provided assistance for upgrades at the Natchez/Adams County Port, as well as a $25 million loan to the company. The county also provided assistance for upgrades to the port to support the project.

Elevance is also building a commercial-scale biorefinery in Asia with joint venture partner Wilmar International. The facility, located in Surabaya, Indonesia, will initially have the capacity to produce 400 million pounds per year of product, with potential for expansion to 800 million pounds in the future. According to Shafer, construction on the plant is expected to conclude in late 2011, with full operations beginning in 2012. 


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