Dynamic Fuels, a 50/50 joint venture between Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, began producing biodiesel in October using animal fats and grease. The production plant is the first of its kind and is located in Geismar, La., outside of Baton Rouge.

It was announced in 2008 by Tyson Foods that they wished to reach a goal of 75 million gallons of biodiesel and jet fuel annually by 2010. Production has now reached that level, and the plant is producing 2,500 barrels per day. While these numbers are still small when compared to the oil industry, 75 million gallons was the total amount of biodiesel fuel produced in the U.S. during 2005.

The fuel is made using Syntroleum’s Bio-Synfining technology, which allows non-food grade animal fats procured by Tyson such as beef tallow, pork lard, chicken fat and grease to be turned into renewable fuels. The new synthetic diesel reduces or eliminates several of the environmental hazards of petroleum-based diesel while delivering more energy than biodiesel made from soybeans.

“We’re very pleased with the progress at the plant and the quality of the fuel it’s producing,” said Jeff Webster, group vice president of Tyson’s Renewable Products Division. “This fuel offers the same benefits of synthetic fuels derived from coal or natural gas, including substantial performance and environmental advantages over petroleum-based fuels.”

In addition, Tyson believes converting animal fats to fuel is easier than using vegetable oil. The process of converting animal fat requires four steps including:

  • Removing contaminants such as water and metal salts.
  • Introducing hydrogen to remove oxygen in the fat.
  • Performing isomerization, a process that rearranges the atoms in the fatty molecule to create diesel and other fuels.
  • Completing distillation, where component parts are separated into diesel fuel, liquefied petroleum gas and naphtha, which can be used as a feedstock for high-octane gasoline.

According to information released by Dynamic Fuels, this is a change from most companies in the ethanol and biodiesel industry who use foods such as corn and soybean oil to produce fuels. The new facility’s fuel products have been tested and do meet all of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D975 specifications for diesel fuel. In fact, Syntroleum officials have said their biodiesel, at low temperatures, performs as well as petroleum diesel. A common complaint with grease-based fuels is that when it gets too cold, the grease solidifies.

A significant concern Dynamic Fuels is facing is whether Congress will restore the $1-per-gallon renewable diesel tax credit that expired in December 2009 when the $170 million Geismar plant was under construction. The company believes that the fuel will not be economically viable unless Congress brings back the federal tax credit that formerly went to companies that mixed alternative fuels with petroleum-based diesel.

Chicken fat biodiesel 3

A Dynamic Fuels employee transfers biodiesel made from chicken fat into a tanker truck at the Geismar, La., facility. Credit: Dynamic Fuels

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