U.S. firm plans first zero-GHG emission biodiesel production plant
A California company, Green Star Products (GSP), is preparing to build what it says will be the first biodiesel plant to emit almost zero net greenhouse gases (CO2) from direct plant production of biodiesel. "The Idaho facility will be the first of its kind in many aspects," said company president Joseph LaStella noted, explaining that the San Diego-area company had to make a number of design changes to the plant's operation in order to achieve the 'Zero Net CO2' concept.
While the use of biodiesel fuel in diesel engines can reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 78% on a life cycle basis, these reductions are to some degree offset by the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the plants that produce biodiesel. In addition to requiring heating (usually from natural gas), they need electricity (obtained from local utilities, typically fossil fuel-powered). The design changes are intended to eliminate these GHG sources.
Noting that GSP's proprietary continuous flow waterless process requires less than one-third the electrical energy to operate, compared to existing batch plants, LaStella said the company will use its own electric generators, which will run on its own biodiesel. The existing electrical utility connections will serve solely as an emergency backup service.
To address the need for process heat, he said, our boilers will run on biodiesel and will serve only as a backup heat source for the plant. The biodiesel facility is adjacent to a cogeneration power plant, and GSP is negotiating to utilize some of the waste heat from that plant, LaStella added.
Steam power plants must condense their steam through condensers before it can be reheated and returned to power the steam turbine. GSP can extract all the heat it needs right before the power plant condensers. Not only does this utilize waste heat, it also increases the efficiency of the power plant, he noted.
Finally, the new facility will use ethanol, instead of methanol, to produce biodiesel. Methanol is typically used by the industry to chemically convert feedstock soy oil, canola oil, etc to biodiesel fuel because it is considerably less expensive to use than ethanol and does offer some advantages over ethanol.
The Idaho operation will house an ethanol research facility, which will produce ethanol from a variety of waste products rather than from corn. These will include cellulose ethanol made from switch grass, wood chips and a variety of waste stalks from local farmers. The research facility will produce only enough ethanol to supply the biodiesel plant for its operations. It will, however, qualify for funding under recent U.S. government clean energy research and development programs.
The facility, to be built in Glenns Ferry, Idaho, southeast of Boise, will cover 90,000 square feet and will incorporate modern grain holding facilities. It will take advantage of the existing transportation infrastructure of the old railroad town and will have a starting production capacity of ten million gallons per year. This, said LaStella, can readily be expanded to meet future demand, up to 60 million gallons per year capacity, not including the supporting ethanol production.
GreenStar Products (formerly BAT International) manufactures renewable biodiesel fuel and other products, including lubricants, additives and devices, designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy in vehicles, machinery and power plants. More information is available from Joseph LaStella at Green Star Products, 619/864-4010, FAX 619/789-4743, E-mail info@GreenStarUSA.com, Web site www.GreenStarUSA.com.