Business feature: Company hopes biodiesel plant shift toward coast

An Iowa company that took over a stalled biodiesel plant in Clovis is looking to make its move west.

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson

The plant for REG Fuels at the Clovis Industrial Park, purchased from ARES Corporation in September 2010, should be an outlet for biodiesel in the first week of July. When completed, the plant is expected to produce 15 million gallons of biodiesel annually.

REG Fuels, which is working on finishing the plant located a the Clovis Industrial Park, is hopeful that the local plant could be a small but significant shift towards the West Coast, allowing it to take advantage of states giving incentives to clean energy alternatives.

Corporate Affairs Manager Alicia Clancy made a visit last week to Clovis, talking with representatives within the city government, the Clovis Industrial Development Corp. and the industrial park itself.

The company started one employee as of Monday at the plant, Clancy said, and has aims to start delivering its biodiesel through the Clovis plant in the first week of July, and continue to do so while it puts the finishing touches on the plant it purchased from ARES Corp. in September 2010.

Clancy said the site currently does not have a full-time manager, as manager Myron Danzer will be traveling between Clovis and two other plants.

"I was talking to Myron and he said people have been really helpful," Clancy said, noting that industrial park neighbor Quality Liquid Feeds has allowed REG to use its scale.

Clovis is one of three new plants coming in, with production of 15 million gallons of biodiesel annually. Plants in New Orleans and Emporia, Kan., will each produce 60 million gallons annually — matching its current top-producing plant in Seneca, Ill.

"I think they're a very quality company," said Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp. "They're a leader in the industry. We're excited to have somebody start using the facility."

The smallest current plant for Ames, Iowa-based REG is located in Ralston, Iowa. According to the company website, it produces 12 million gallons per year and has 11 full-time employees. Gentry said preliminary talks with REG put the employee range at 20 to 22 when the plant was running at full strength, about in line with estimates ARES had given.

"It will be the second-smallest," Clancy said in reference to Clovis, "but it's in an advantageous spot in the western market."

The company is taking applications at to set up customer accounts for the biodiesel. Until the Clovis plant is running, the biodiesel sold at the 500,000-gallon capacity terminal will be produced in Houston and moved there via rail car. The success of terminal sales will be a determining factor in how quickly REG plans to complete the plant itself.

The plant's main advantage in location is that it's near oil industries in West Texas and Artesia. The company's three tiers of customers are petroleum refineries, petroleum wholesalers and companies with large trucking fleets that keep diesel on site.

Biodiesel is a drop-in biofuel for use in any diesel engine application, and blended at any ratio. Right now, the plant REG acquired will be able to convert refined oils into biodiesel, but upgrades would allow the use of cooking oil and animal fats. The process is more complex to start up, but the ease of getting the fuel source justifies it. Future years, Clancy said, may see the company attempt to work on biodiesel for jet fuel.

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