|East Carbon maintenance supervisor Darwin Christensen aids city youth in beautification efforts at city hall.|
East Carbon City officials conducted a special public hearing and council meeting on June 5 to determine the fate of large municipal land sale. After lengthy public comment, council members ratified the sale of more than 180 acres of land to biofuels producer Vital Energy.
In addition to acquiring the city property, company officials are also planning the purchase of 40 plus privately owned acres. The new plant will rest on 222.59 total acres, located on both the north and south of state road 123 just west of East Carbon, providing the facility with full rail access.
Representing Vital Energy at the public hearing was company Chief Executive O fficer I. Westbrook.
"I think the public was really positive once they heard the company's plans. Having their CEO present at the meeting made a big difference," said councilmember and planning and zoning chairperson Joyce Caviness. "It was important to the council as well as the residents that the process be explained, once that was done everyone got excited about the project."
According to Caviness, the process will begin with soy bean oil and convert the raw material to biodiesel and propylene glycol. Both substances are are marketable goods. Biodiesel as a commercial fuel and propylene glycol as a bonding agent used in the pharmaceutical industry.
"Westbrook reported that the process essentially has no emissions and that was really important to our citizens," said Caviness.
As an added incentive, Westbrook also indicated that methane produced within the cells at the East Carbon Development Corporation landfill could possibly be used within the plant's process in the future. The gas is currently burned by an open flame atop the cell.
Westbrook also stated that the plant will serve as a community employer as it will have 50 positions open near the end of its phase one production.
"Many of the jobs will require specialized on-the-job training and Westbrook indicated that he plans to train community members in the plant," said Caviness.
Phase one of the project will require over $20 million of company investment and is scheduled to be completed in 12 to 18 months, finishing with a beautification and landscaping effort on the roadside property.
Biofuel can be broadly defined as solid, liquid or gas consisting of/ or derived from recently dead biological material, most commonly plants. This distinguishes it from fossil fuel, which is derived from long dead biological material, according to wikipedia.com
Biofuel can be theoretically produced from any biological carbon source. The most common by far is photosynthetic plants that capture solar energy. Many different plants and plant derived materials are used for biofuel manufacture.
According to councilmember Caviness, Vital Energy will start their production by bringing in soybean oil via train transport. Both byproducts of the facility's reaction will also be transported via train.
Biofuels are used globally and biofuel industries are expanding in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The most common use for biofuels is as liquid fuels for automotive transport. The use of renewable biofuels provides increased independence from petroleum and enhances energy security.
Wikipedia reports that biodiesel is the most common biofuel in Europe. It is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is a liquid similar in composition to mineral diesel. Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine when mixed with mineral diesel. In some countries manufacturers cover their diesel engines under warranty for 100 percent biodiesel use, although Volkswagen of Germany, for example, asks drivers to make a telephone check with the VW environmental services department before switching to 100 percent biodiesel.
In the USA more than 80 percent of commercial trucks and city buses run on diesel. Therefore, "the nascent U.S. market for biodiesel is growing at a staggering rate, from 25 million gallons per year in 2004 to 78 million gallons by the beginning of 2005. By the end of 2006 biodiesel production was estimated to increase fourfold to more than 1 billion gallons," writes energy expert Will Thurmond in an article for the July-Aug. 2007 issue of The Futurist magazine.
Additionally, in 2006 the President George W. Bush said in a State of the Union speech that the U.S. is "addicted to oil" and should replace 75 percent of imported oil by 2025 by alternative sources of energy including biofuels.