Scott Petroleum is running the final checks on its biodiesel plant in Greenville and is almost ready to begin operation.
“We are in startup mode as we speak,” Darrell Forman, Scott's special projects manager, said Monday. “Basically, we're there, and we'll be making product in the next few days.”
The plant converts soybean oil and animal fats into pure biodiesel. The 100 percent biodiesel is then blended with petroleum diesel, usually into a 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum mixture.
Biodiesel normally can be used in any diesel-powered vehicle without any engine modifications.
The plant will produce 20 million gallons of B100 a year when at capacity. That will make it the second largest of the five biodiesel plants in the state, according to the National Biodiesel Board.
Forman said biodiesel has clear advantages over petroleum diesel.
“From an environmental standpoint, biodiesel is relatively free of toxins and aromatics,” he said, “From an operations standpoint, it has a better lubricity than regular diesel and a higher cetane rating.”
A higher lubricity makes parts in the engine wear less. A diesel fuel with a higher cetane rating - the diesel equivalent of octane in gasoline - will ignite more quickly, making the vehicle easier to start.
In the long run, biodiesel will help reduce dependence on foreign oil because it is made from domestic products and renewable sources, Forman said. He said the biggest benefit now for Mississippi is that it helps farmers by increasing demand for commodities. Scott buys its feedstock locally, helping to increase the price Mississippi farmers get for soybeans and animal fat.
“Alternative energy is already having a positive impact on agricultural economics,” he said.
The USDA forecasts the amount of soybean oil used for biodiesel will increase 83 percent this year over last year and attributes all the growth in domestic soybean oil use this year to the biodiesel industry.
The price of soybeans is up as a result. They sold for $7.49 per bushel on average in the United States in August, an increase of 43 percent over August 2006.
Scott receives a tax credit for the federal excise tax on fuel production when it blends biodiesel with regular diesel. Forman said that credit helps to offset costs and that Scott passes savings on to customers through a lower fuel price.
The Greenville plant employs about 25 people, Forman said. He expects the final number of employees to be between 25 and 30.
The biodiesel will also available at Scott's bulk plants for agricultural and commercial users.
“For the general public, it will be available at all Scott retail stores,” Forman said.