Illinois ethanol plant to build co-located biodiesel plant

By Holly Jessen | November 11, 2013

Adkins Energy LLC, a 48 MMgy ethanol plant located in Lena, Ill., is poised to begin construction on a 2 MMgy co-located biodiesel plant, which will utilize the distillers corn oil separated at the ethanol plant as a biodiesel feedstock.

The $4.5 million project was awarded $500,000 in Rural Energy for America Program grant money. The biodiesel plant, a technology of WB Services LLC, is expected to begin production in spring 2014. “We are excited to add biodiesel to our product offerings and thankful that the USDA sees the value in this project,” Ray Baker, general manager of the plant said. “This project is another example of how the renewable fuel standard (RFS) is working for Americans; it is encouraging continued investment in advanced bio-refineries and creating new jobs which are helping to revitalize rural communities like ours.”

Co-locating ethanol and biodiesel plants is a concept that has been long discussed but not widely adopted. The new biodiesel plant at Atkins Energy will be the first biodiesel plant that will be truly integrated into the operations of an ethanol plant, with corn oil produced at the ethanol facility going to produce biodiesel next door, Baker told Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The company will utilize 100 percent of the 1.5 million gallons of corn oil separated on-site to produce biodiesel. “I would say, that represents about 70 percent of the plant’s capacity,” Baker said, adding that the company will likely source additional corn oil from other ethanol plants and that the facility will also have the ability to process other fats and oils. Currently, corn oil produced at Adkins Energy is sold to other biodiesel plants or for animal feed supplementation.

Co-location offers Adkins several advantages, one of them being a shared energy source. In addition, it eliminates the need to pay freight to ship corn oil elsewhere. Finally, the company will be able to utilize employees already working at the ethanol plant, including management, accounting and even sales, with the in-house ethanol sales manager also selling biodiesel, once the facility is up and running. The current plan is to hire only one other employee, a biodiesel production manager, and as the plant begins production evaluate if additional employees are needed. “That’s one of the benefits of it, is that it is integrated into our operations and our people will be on site,” he said. “But we just don’t know where we will need some overlap.”

The biodiesel plant will only be about 8,500 square feet, much smaller than the company’s other structures. Still, it’s designed with the space to double its production facilities if future opportunities allow. “We are committed to renewable energy and to northwest Illinois,” Baker said. “Biodiesel fuel, like ethanol, offers drivers a renewable, home-grown source of fuel that’s good for the environment, good for their budget and good for our nation, and it provides a direct benefit for our members and the community.”

Baker also pointed to current talk that the U.S. EPA may lower the amount of renewable fuel required in 2014. “The EPA’s proposal to lower corn ethanol requirements and keep biodiesel mandates the same when the markets are responding to the RFS’s call for growth in both fuels is mindboggling.” Baker stated. ”Our investment like many others in the industry is being made in response to the RFS, a policy that promises market access for ethanol and other advanced biofuels like biodiesel. If Congress or the EPA changes course now, what does that mean for the future of renewable energy jobs and agriculture? So, as we break ground on this facility, we are trusting that Congress and President Obama will stay the course and won’t mess with the RFS.”