Biorefinery, Company initiatives, Investments

Elevance advances Natchez biorefinery plans

Following Elevance’s successful start-up of its 180 ktpa Gresik, Indonesia, facility, in 2012, the company is now proceeding with its plans to retrofit a purchased biodiesel facility in Natchez, Mississippi, into its second biorefinery with a capacity of 280 ktpa (617m lbs/yr). The biorefinery will produce novel specialty chemicals including multifunctional esters such as 9-decenoic methyl ester; a unique distribution of alpha and internal olefins including decene; and a mixture of oleochemicals but more C16 than C18 chains.

Start-up of the second biorefinery is expected in 2016.

Elevance said its high-value, di-functional specialty chemicals have superior functional attributes previously unavailable commercially as it combine the functional attributes of an olefin (typical of petrochemicals) and monofunctional ester or acid (typical of oleochemicals) into a single molecule. Elevance claimed to be the only company that can economically produce these di-functional molecules (using their metathesis technology) as conventional producers have to blend and formulate a number of separate ingredients to produce materials with the same functional attributes of both olefins and esters.

The company is now marketing its building blocks under the trade name Inherent™. The Natchez biorefinery will initially use soybean oil or canola oil for feedstock. The Gresik biorefinery has been operating on palm oil, but according to Elevance, both facilities can use various renewable oil feedstock including jatropha and algal oils when they become commercially available.

The last time I talked to Elevance about their capacity strategies, the company mentioned that it is in multiple conversations for the possibility of having its third biorefinery in South America or another one in Asia.

Elevance is investing $30m in the Natchez site to make some significant improvements such as transforming the existing operations from batch to continuous process; removal of obsolete equioment and structures that will save the company $1m compared to initial project estimates; and completing initial capital projects that will speed the implementation of the overall Natchez biorefinery project.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.

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