Iowa Biodiesel Plant Gets Grant to Test Exciting New Technology

Iowa Biodiesel Plant Gets Grant to Test Exciting New Technology

Central Iowa Energy at Newton will use Nobel-Prize winning method to expand biodiesel production into making specialty chemicals.

The Iowa Power Fund last week approved a $3.9 million grant that will enable technology to be added to a biodiesel plant at Newton in central Iowa that could use soybean oil and poultry and animal fats to make specialty chemicals and jet fuel. This state money will join with a $2.5 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy which was awarded to Elevance Renewable Sciences of Bollingbrook, Ill., recently. Elevance uses a proprietary Nobel Prize-winning technology that expands biofuel production into chemical products.

Elevance says the technology could be used at other biodiesel plants. Biodiesel manufacturers have struggled for profitability as they are contending against uncertain demand for biodiesel fuel used by the trucking industry.

The new technology will be added to the Central Iowa Renewable Energy biodiesel plant at Newton, which is managed by Renewable Energy Group, headquartered at Ames. The plant employs 28 workers. Elevance and REG say an additional 40 to 50 worker positions would be created in 2010 by adding Elevance's olefin metathesis technology.

Cargill is one of the investors in this new technology

Elevance is backed by Cargill and the Texas Pacific investment group of Ft. Worth, Texas. "We look forward to completing the contracts, beginning construction of the plant at Newton, and bringing these products to market as quickly as possible," says K'Lynne Johnson, CEO of Elevance. A company called Materia Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., owns the patents to the olafin metathesis process that won the 2005 Nobel Prize.

The $2.5 million federal grant the Newton plant is getting is part of nearly $600 million the U.S. government announced on December 4 as available to help renewable fuels facilities turn woodchips, cornstalks and algae into fuel. The federal grants announced Dec. 4 went toward 19 biorefinery projects in 15 states.

This new technology could be bolted onto other biodiesel plants

Elevance uses a proprietary technology that could produce fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics from the same soybean oils and animal fats used at biodiesel plants. Elevance officials have told state officials that, in addition to being built and used at the Newton biodiesel plant, the process could be bolted on to other biodiesel plants around Iowa.

USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy announced the federal grants on Dec. 14 to go to the 19 biorefinery projects. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said President Obama told his administration to speed up the timetable for creating renewable fuel projects and jobs. Vilsack says he sees a time when these types of renewable fuel and renewable chemical production facilities are found all over rural America. "This is all about bringing a sense of new prosperity to rural communities," says Vilsack. "This is going to make a big difference for America."

TAGS: USDA
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