Biodiesel from Animal Fat
Converting Chicken Fat to Biodiesel
As you might have read, and likely
would expect, the Midwest Region in the US has been enjoying
what some are calling a 'Boom' in Biofuels. While most people
first think of corn, which is the current top choice for producing ethanol / e85 in North America, it does not play a role when
producing Biodiesel. The next contestant for producing Biodiesel
is Chicken Fat. Yes, you read correctly, Chicken Fat Biodiesel.
Another feature of the Midwest, Southeast Missouri to be more specific,
is the Tyson Foods Inc. Poultry Plant, Dexter, Mo. Tyson is the
nations largest producer of animal fat leftover from chicken,
cattle, and hogs.
Biodiesel is currently produced from a number of products, including soy bean oil, cotton seed oil, and yellow grease, among other things. Turning animal fat into Biodiesel is not new, it's just not (yet) being done to any great extent. The low, uneven quality of chicken fat (a factor when being considered as a biofuel stock,) is normally shipped to a few vendors in other states to be used in soaps, as filler in pet foods and a few other consumer products. When compared to soybean oil, animal fats are more plentiful and easily exploited. The rising expense of producing soybean oil for conversion to biodiesel is driving towards more cost effective methods of producing
Biodiesel Fuel Stocks
Currently, a $5 Million dollar plant is in the works to begin processing some of the estimated, 2.3 billion pounds of chicken fat produced annually by the Dexter, Mo. Tyson poultry plant. The two men planning to produce biodiesel from chicken fat are Jerry Bagby, and Harold Williams and together, they are hoping to produce around 3 million gallons of biodiesel a year. Animal fat, while the primary ingredient, will not be the only ingredient when making this biodiesel. Soybean oil will be added to the gooey substance as it will aid in lubrication of engine parts, as well as helping the system to run clean. All but about 12% of biodiesel fuel stock is soybean oil; the rising cost of soy bean oil is creating a trend where the industry is looking for cheaper product to use as biodiesel fuel stock..
In November, 2006, Tyson announced the establishment of a "Renewable Energy" division that is scheduled to go online in 2007. Along with competitors, Perdue Farms, Inc., and Smithfield Foods, Inc., the nation's largest meat corporations seem to be taking notice that these companies are creating massive amounts of fuel stock in the form of animal fat(s) to the biodiesel arena. Producing biodiesel from animal fats will help in making the growing biodiesel industry a more reliable fuel source for the trucking industry which is partly responsible for transporting goods across America. Consider that the addition of meatpackers into the biodiesel production process could make biodiesel [production] less expensive as well as more plentiful.
The Need for Alternative Fuels
Vernon Eidman, a professor of economics at the University of Minnesota, estimates that the US will be able to produce about 1 billion gallons of biodiesel by the year 2012, with about half of it coming from animal fat. He further assumes that biodiesel made from soybean oil will only be about 1/5 (20%) of the total production. According to some experts, the passage of the Federal Energy Policy Act, 2005 caused a greater interest in the ethanol and biodiesel markets. The bill set a new standard requiring the U.S. to use 7 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2012. Soybean oil is a very attractive biodiesel fuel stock due to it already being sold as a food additive. Biodiesel refineries are able to rely on the quality of the product due to the strict guidelines for marketing soy bean oil. Soy bean oil is a more expensive fuel stock, when compared to chicken fat which costs about .20 cents per pound. The price of soy bean oil is rising due to increasing demand which in turn, creates a higher price for biodiesel produced from the renewable source.
Animal Fat Biodiesel may not be the best soultion
A downside to producing biodiesel from animal fat is related to temperature. Animal fat begins to turn cloudy at a higher temperature than soybean biodiesel which also means that it could thicken up when it gets to a temperature lower than about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This could limit distribution to the southern US region, thereby reducing widespread use for most of the year. Biodiesel production costs about a dollar more per gallon than conventional diesel, but federal tax incentives help to keep the cost to the consumer lower.
Tyson and Perdue are testing Biodiesel in their truck fleets in an effort to reduce transportation costs within the respective companies while Smithfield Foods is investigating how hog waste can be converted into fuel. The Smithfield BioEnergy Group is producing Biodiesel from vegetable oil but has yet to turn a profit due to high startup costs. It is estimated that U.S. Biodiesel production is on the rise increasing by 3 times every year; production was approximately 25 million gallons in 2004, nearly 75 million gallons in 2005 and 200 million gallons in 2006. Having more Biodiesel in the market place, especially from inexpensive fuel stocks could very well make it more competitive with standard Diesel fuel. The number of Biodiesel fuel station locations is growing; there are several BioWillie
locations in Texas.( yes, the name is Willie Nelson approved )