This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 04, 2008

Largest U.S. Biodiesel Plant Starts Production in Texas

Aerial photo of a large industrial facility located adjacent to a river.

GreenHunter Energy's new biodiesel plant in Houston, Texas, shown here near completion, resembles nearby petroleum refineries. Enlarge this photo.
Credit: GreenHunter Energy

GreenHunter Energy, Inc. has begun commercial operations at its Houston, Texas, biodiesel refinery, which can produce 105 million gallons per year (mgpy) of biodiesel. That production capacity makes it the largest biodiesel refinery in the United States, barely beating out the 100-mgpy biodiesel refinery built by Imperium Renewables in Washington State. For comparison, the total U.S. production capacity for biodiesel reached 2,240 mgpy in 2007, although poor market conditions held 2007 production to about 450 million gallons, according to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). See the NBB fact sheet (PDF 68 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

GreenHunter Energy claims that its new facility is able to produce biodiesel from animal fats, vegetable oils, or a blend of the two, and the facility has zero emissions. The facility was originally a waste-oil recycling facility owned by Channel Refining Corporation, and GreenHunter Energy bought it in early 2007 and converted it into a biodiesel plant. As a result, the Houston biorefinery features 700,000 barrels of storage capacity, a methanol distillation system that is five times larger than needed, and a system to neutralize the crude glycerin byproduct, making it a more valuable product. The company was founded by Gary Evans, a former oil executive. See the GreenHunter Energy press release and biofuels Web page.

Meanwhile, an attempt to circle the world in record time using only biodiesel as fuel is now well past its halfway point and ahead of the record pace. The Earthrace, a futuristic catamaran made of carbon fiber and Kevlar composites, attempted to circle the globe last year but abandoned that attempt when a crack developed in the hull. This year's effort launched from Sagunto, Spain, on April 27 with a goal of finishing by June 6. The record attempt went smoothly for most of May, with only a few delays. However, after battling storms to reach Palau, the crew discovered that the port driveshaft and propeller needed replacing, and the boat is now limping toward Singapore on one engine. If the repairs are successful, the craft will still need to cross the Indian Ocean, navigate the Red Sea to the Suez Canal, and cross the Mediterranean Sea to return to its starting point. According to the captain's blog, as of June 2 the ship had traveled more than 15,000 nautical miles, with 9,000 nautical miles to go, and is 2,764 nautical miles ahead of the world record pace that was set a decade ago. For the boat's current position and the latest blogs and photos, see the Earthrace Web site.