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Largest green diesel plant completed in US, Diamond Green Diesel: can it make money?

| July 1, 2013

Diamond_Green_DieselA now-complete 142 million gallon green diesel monster project will easily deliver big on renewable energy targets and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

But it also offers a material path to profits for its parents, Valero Energy and Darling International.

In Louisiana, Darling International announced that Diamond Green Diesel, the joint venture between Valero subsidiary Diamond Alternative Energy LLC and Darling International , has reached mechanical completion and the startup process will lead to full production of renewable diesel.

Once in full operations, the 9,300 barrel-per-day (142.5 million gallon) plant in Norco, Louisiana will process recycled animal fat and used cooking oil as well as corn oil into renewable diesel fuel that has comparable properties to petroleum-based diesel. The renewable diesel can be shipped by pipeline and meets low-carbon fuel standards.

The Diamond Green Diesel plant in Norco, during construction.

The Diamond Green Diesel plant in Norco, during construction.

According to company estimates, the facility will reduce greenhouse gases by more than 80 percent over conventional petroleum-based diesel; fulfill almost 14 percent of a national mandate to boost production for biomass-based diesel; and create more than 700 jobs at peak construction in Louisiana.

The plant features UOP’s Ecofining pretreatment and hydrotreating/isomerization process to convert animal-based oils into hydrocarbon fuels — similar but not exactly the same as the hydrotreating processes used by Dynamic Fuels (also in Louisiana) as well at Neste Oil’s massive plants in Singapore, the Netherlands and Finland.

The project will sell diesel into the market on an unsubsidized basis, at the rack price — supplementing its bottom line with the value of renewable energy RINs that are used by obligated parties to satisfy their obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Darling International Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randall Stuewe said, “We are proud to report the mechanical completion and startup of Diamond Green Diesel. This joint venture will be a producer of high quality renewable diesel capable of fulfilling the RFS2 biomass-based diesel mandate. Our partnership with Valero will benefit Diamond Green Diesel through multiple operational synergies.”

In today’s Digest, we look at the economics of the plant, why renewable diesel really, really matters; how the project confirms that existing feedstocks “rule” in advanced biofuels, for now; how scale matters, with up to 11% of US cooking fat will be processed at the plant. Plus, we show the project during construction, now at completion, an easy-to-follow model of its site-plan, and charts for the economics of making money from animal fats – all by following the page links below.

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