CLAIBORNE BIODIESEL PLANT NOW OPERATING
CLAIBORNE, Ala. -- Less than six months after a new $15 million biodiesel plant was announced for Monroe County, Independence Renewable Energy Corporation (IREC) began producing its first biodiesel from soybean oil this week.
|New Claiborne biodiesel refinery now in operation.|
The new Claiborne plant will produce 40 million gallons of eco-friendly biodiesel once the second production line is completed in early May, making IREC the largest biodiesel producer in the state and in the Southeast, according to spokesperson Peggy Jaye.
Seven employees have been hired to date and three more operators will be hired once both production lines are operating, Jaye stated. The 10 jobs will additionally support up to 150 jobs in agriculture and an estimated 100 jobs in transportation and petroleum blending industries, she added.
The first shipment of soybean oil was delivered two weeks ago to Claiborne, reported IREC Executive Vice President/General Manager Greg Martin. Martin said the primary base or feedstock for the plant will initially be soybean oil, although the facility design provides the flexibility for expansion as well as the use of alternate feedstocks. He said the company's anticipated annual revenue is $120 million and target markets are Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.
The project was announced in late September and two weeks later Alabama Gov. Bob Riley joined Parsons & Whittemore Chairman George Landegger in Monroeville for a ceremonial ground-breaking. Parsons & Whittemore (P&W), a privately held company based in Rye Brook, NY, owns IREC and handled the project's engineering and construction. P&W also owns and operates the Alabama River and Alabama Pine pulp mills on the Claiborne site.
Biodiesel is a renewable fuel that can be made from a variety of vegetable oils and animal fats. The new Claiborne biodiesel plant will use more than 27 million bushels (or nearly 1 million acres) of soybeans a year for its production, based on the formula that one bushel is required to produce 1.5 gallons of biodiesel. The biodiesel market is growing rapidly due to rising environmental awareness and a movement toward less dependence on foreign oil, Martin explained.
Biodiesel is used in conventional diesel engines in various blends with petroleum diesel fuel. Many states are mandating that a percentage of this eco-friendly fuel is blended into all petroleum-based diesel fuel, which offers comparable operating performance while reducing greenhouse gas and toxic emissions associated with petroleum diesel. Martin stated that the Claiborne refinery's biodiesel will be sold to local distributors and blenders and mixed with petroleum diesel to make different grades for end-users.