ADRIAN - A plant capable of producing 40 million gallons of the alternative fuel biodiesel opened with great fanfare yesterday in an industrial area of this Lenawee County community.
The ceremony at the Biofuel Industries Group LLC's NextDiesel operation included Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.
The $20 million plant, which was to be in operation today, is initially to produce 20 million gallons a year of the cleaner-burning diesel, said Jason Eisenberg, director of business development.
The firm has plans to double the capacity before year's end, he said.
The renewable energy source is derived by blending petroleum diesel with fuel made from soybean oil. It and ethanol have won notice as showing promise for reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, fostering a cleaner environment, and helping farmers.
The local plant's product will be sold to fuel suppliers who typically distribute to large fleet operations as well as to service stations.
Production of biodiesel more than tripled last year in the United States to 250 million gallons, according to the National Biodiesel Board. Nearly 150 facilities have opened or are in the planning stages.
The Adrian plant, which will employ 30, is only the second active producer of biodiesel in Michigan, Mr. Eisenberg said
In addition to soybean oil, the plant is designed to refine chicken and beef fat and recycled vegetable oil, making it able to take advantages of price fluctuations in raw materials, he explained.
Among the firm's customers is Barron & Son, in Monroe, Mich., a distributor that blends biodiesel with petroleum diesel. School districts, utilities, and fuel centers are other customers.
Dan Secord, general manager, said the product needs to meet quality standards and be priced competitively. "But, we stay strictly with soy-based products," he said.
NextDiesel is the first biofuel plant in Michigan to qualify for state assistance for being built in a designated Renewable Energy Renaissance Zone.
The owners are to receive 100 percent tax abatement on property taxes for the next 15 years.
American Ag Fuels, in Defiance, is one of three biodiesel plants in Ohio. That facility, which is capable of refining multiple feed stocks, is completing an expansion to allow it to produce 7 million gallons a year.
It opened in 2005, producing 1.5 millions gallons.
Steve Lakenau, president, said soybeans are the preferred feed stock for the process, but the escalating cost of soy oil could make alternatives attractive.
Contact Mark Reiter at: email@example.com or 419-724-6096.