Versatility is the leading factor
Biodiesel has more potential as an environmental and imported oil than does ethanol because of its greater versatility according to Imperium Renewables, a Seattle-based biodiesel producer. The company states that only a small percentage of ethanol can be blended into gasoline while biodiesel can be run at 100% concentration in a diesel engine without modification, which may have even better potential for effective positive economic and environmental change. Another advantage is the diversity of feedstocks – any animal or vegetable oil can be used. In addition, its lubricant quality is beneficial – as sulfur regulations have tightened, regular diesel’s lubrication effects have waned leading to engine wear – biodiesel acts as a blending agent with its lubrication qualities. Imperium is building its first 100 million gallon/year biodiesel plant in the Port of Gray’s Harbor, Washington at the cost of $40 million.
Chloride facilities expansion
Dow is expanding its dry calcium chloride capacity by 30% at its Ludington, Michigan facility. The expansion is in response to the steady growth in demand. Calcium chloride can be used in oilfield fluids, dust palliatives, de-icing and concrete acceleration.
Cellulose into sugar
DuPont is developing bio-based and bio-engineered alternatives to petroleum-based fuel and other products. The company is looking to make plant-derived ethanol much more economical by finding a way to turn excess cellulose, the leftover, wasted part of the plant, into sugars. DuPont is engineering enzymes to eat the cellulosic parts (like corn stalks) and convert them to sugar, which is what will get turned into ethanol. This solution would drive up productivity per acre of crop, making ethanol more economical. Currently, the net gain in energy savings from ethanol is 20% over that from traditional petrochemical sources, but once cellulose can be added to the ethanol equation, that 20% is expected to rise to an 80% better environmental footprint over petroleum feedstocks.
House decides on OCS bill
The House of Representatives narrowly turned back efforts to restore access to vast reserves of natural gas off the U.S. coasts. The House voted 217 to 203 to reinstate language in an appropriations bill to maintain a 25-year-old ban on development of natural gas and oil reserves in the U.S. outer continental shelf regions.
Dow delayed the restart of its polystyrene plant in Joliet, Illinois due to difficult economic conditions. Production stopped on May 1 for a scheduled maintenance and regulatory shutdown, which was completed in about two weeks. Production, however, won’t start again until June 1 because of raw material costs.
Arctic gas development
President Bush has called for development of natural gas resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying that those resources and others are needed to maintain U.S. global competitiveness. He also reiterates his call for more natural gas development in the U.S. Gulf and for streamlined federal processing of applications for new liquefied natural gas import terminals. In addition, he urged for more aggressive construction of nuclear power plants.
Dow Chemical will boost ethyleneamines capacity at subsidiary Union Carbide’s St. Charles operations in Hahnville, Louisiana. This boost will be the result of expanding the existing reduction amination technology unit and installing amination technology in a new facility. This move will help the company meet growing market demand for the two, large volume ethyleneamine homologues globally and in North America – ethylenediamine (EDA) and diethylenetriamine (DETA).
A University of Connecticut start-up, Venomix, has contracted with Chemtura to develop insecticides. Venomix includes technologies developed by a UConn lab and patented by the university that should have less environmental impact because the toxicity is closely targeted to the pest. Chemtura’s crop protection division plans to invest more than $1 million in Venomix in the next two years.
Long-fiber capacity expansion
RTP has built a new long-fiber facility in Winona, Minnesota to help increase capacity, reduce lead times and increase quality control. Additional long-fiber lines have been added to several RTP facilities worldwide, incorporating a wider array of resin systems including cross-functional technologies beyond polypropylene and nylon.
Esters plant expansion
Cognis is upgrading and debottlenecking the esterification plant at its Cincinnati, Ohio facility. Cognis esters are used in synthetic lubricants for transmissions and axles in the heavy-duty truck industry. Work will begin in the early summer and is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2007.
Ethanol and starch investment
Tate & Lyle will invest $260 million for a new corn wet mill in Fort Dodge, Iowa that will produce ethanol and cationic starches for the paper industry. The facility will be built in two phases, which will ultimately have a capacity of 300,000 bushels of corn/day. The first phase will be completed by March 2009 with a capacity to process 150,000 bushes of corn/day and 100 million gallons of ethanol/year. The investment will double the company’s ethanol capacity and free up capacity at its Sagamore, Indiana plant to enable them to increase production of higher value-added food ingredients. Tate & Lyle is currently expanding the Sagamore plant to increase capacity for food ingredients production as well as its Loudon, Tennessee plant, which will increase ethanol capacity by 37 million gallons/year to 100 million gallons/year. Both the Sagamore and Loudon expansions are scheduled to be operational by 2007.