March 19, 2007 2:59 PM PDT

Texas power plant runs on biodiesel

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Biofuels Power has opened up a 5-megawatt power plant that runs entirely on biodiesel--and it plans to follow up with another facility that can produce twice as much power.

The Oak Ridge North, Texas, plant runs its three diesel power generators entirely on biodiesel, a form of diesel made from vegetable oil or animal fat, agricultural byproducts that don't have a huge resale value. Other power plants buy biodiesel in limited quantities, but mix it with regular diesel.

By operating strictly on biodiesel, Biofuels says it can become a showcase for alternative energy. A second facility that will produce 10 megawatts of power is already on the drawing boards. Ten megawatts can provide power for about 3,000 homes.

Although biodiesel mostly gets discussed as an alternative to regular diesel for running cars, the inherent properties of biodiesel made from animal fat fit better for power plants. Animal fat biodiesel doesn't function well in cold climates and needs to be kept somewhat warm.

"They really aren't a suitable fuel unless we can come up with a suitable additive to improve these cold flow properties and do it at a low cost. Hence their major use may be for situations where we can keep the fuel supply warm, say above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, such as for heating fuels," Vernon Eidman, a professor at the University of Minnesota, wrote in response to a recent inquiry.

Biodiesel from waste products won't solve the U.S. dependency on oil. The U.S. generates about 2.7 billion pounds of waste vegetable grease a year. If all of it were harvested and converted to biodiesel, it would produce about 350 million gallons of fuel. If half of the inedible tallow and animal fat from slaughterhouses were harvested, another 500 million gallons would be produced, according to figures from Eidman.

The U.S., however, consumed an estimated 62 billion gallons of diesel last year, so these contributions would amount to about 1 percent.

Still, the amount of biodiesel produced in the U.S. will increase in the near future from all sources. Imperium Renewables, which specializes in "fresh" biodiesel, is expanding production, and agribusiness giants, such as Tyson Foods, are looking at building facilities that will take old chicken fat and turn it into fuel.

Other alternative energy experiments in Texas include a series of thermophilic digesters that convert cow manure into natural gas.

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10 comments

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Is the alternative really any better?
All this biodiesel, solar, wind power talk is absurd. Do any of these so-called alternatives offer considerable energy output? Could they given 30 years? Will they ever be economically feasible? The answer is the same... Absolutely not. I would bet that biodiesel is even more harmful to the environment than many alternatives.

Then why throw money into ideas which will never become feasible? The only real option forward is clean+modern nuclear energy.
Posted by atici (63 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Is the alternative... better?",Will.... economically feasible? "
"The answer is the same... Absolutely not." Just how have you arrived at your assumptions? Do ya care to show us how you have arrived at your conclusions? Show us how you get to your Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and then to your Economic Rate of Return (ERR) computations. DUH! The Commander is in possession all those formulas for your kind information! Lots of $$$ to be made by some in all of this. Will you be one of them (like the Commander)!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
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Nuclear energy is a dead duck!
You can't make if fly just by shouting. It's too expensive and produces highly toxic waste material while scaring the landscape with mines. Its also not carbon nuetral because the mines use fossil fuels to operate.

Geothermal HFR is a clean safe alternative that can produce baseload power for as little as 3c per Kwh. Its got a smaller footprint on the planet than any other powersource. Its cheaper to build than a nuclear reactor, even including the drilling of holes for the underground heat exchanger. Once built it's cheaper to run than coal fired powerstations because their's no ongoing mining costs.

Its going to last 10,000 years not 100. Its baseload power provision 24/7. It doesn't require mines. It doesn't create waste. The technology is now quite old and very mature.

21 countries have implemented Geothermal generators (though mostly using underground steam not HFR)

It also has the potential to provide a capcity for sinking carbon because CO2 can be used as the working fliud that's pumped through the underground heat exchanger. The more underground heat exchangers, to more green power you can produce and the more carbon you can capture. Its all win win win.

Nuclear is a distraction from the real option, not a practical alternative. I can't see why this keeps getting suggested when it's so dirty and expensive. Unless its ignorance or vested interest.

Geothermal power is available _today_, so why not put our efforts into that. At least it has a future.
Posted by Burnsie001 (30 comments )
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Biodiesel Powerplants
I think you may be missing the point, Atici. No one says that biodiesel is the ONLY answer to our energy problems. It is, however, environmentally superior to fossil-fuel powered generation facilities and is economically superior. As for nuclear, perhaps it can be made environmentally benign, but what of the waste? Yucca Mountain is in my back yard and I really don't care to have your waste there, but I can put up with it if it enhances our national security. I say we should pursue every alternative that shows promise. The marketplace will weed out the weak sisters.
Posted by baldguy61 (63 comments )
Link Flag
Burning animal fat sounds great...
... let's generate Texas' power by burning rendered pig lard. For crying out loud. My guess is that the natural gas currently used for generating most of Texas power is a bit cleaner than that!
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
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Biodiesel from chicken fat
Creating biodiesel from poultry fat is not new, just hasn't been done to any great extent so far. Two guys in Missouri are attempting to put it use as is Tyson chicken. Tyson has plans for a plant that will be right next door to a poultry processing plant; at least the biodiesel will be 'fresh' - lol

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://e85.whipnet.net/alt.fuel/animal.fat.html" target="_newWindow">http://e85.whipnet.net/alt.fuel/animal.fat.html</a>
Posted by ronb42 (7 comments )
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Biodiesel Generator
The biodiesel generator in the north of Houston, suburban community also sells power back into the ERCOT power grid. The fuel is produced by SafeRenewables Biodiesel facility which is located approximately 2 miles away from the generator location.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://e85.whipnet.net/alt.fuel/biodiesel.generator.html" target="_newWindow">http://e85.whipnet.net/alt.fuel/biodiesel.generator.html</a>
Posted by ronb42 (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I totally agree. I think if you kill 10,000 chickens you may make enough of the so called "biodiesel" to run an engine for an hour or so. It takes a lot of energy to kill animals etc.. Poor performance!
Posted by vanwahlgren (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe you should all take a look at this article:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/5-myths-renewable-energy5.htm

It might be worh checking their sources too. Get all the facts before forming an opinion.
Posted by Dragonice000 (1 comment )
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