In some welcome news, the world's largest meat company, Tyson Foods, has entered a partnership to process waste animal fat to a renewable diesel fuel.
Along with Syntroleum Corporation, Tyson Foods has opened a plant in Geismar, Louisiana for converting low-grade, inedible fats and greases into a renewable diesel fuel for transportation.
AdvertisementThe partnership, called Dynamic Fuels, opened its plant in October and is already producing 105,000 gallons (397,000 litres) a day and says it has capacity to produce up to 75 million gallons (284,000 litres) per year.
The process is advantageous over biodiesel, which is produced from soybean, in that soybean-based process is costly and is controversial in food security circles.
Federal regulations prohibit its transport through most existing pipelines for fear it will mix with jet fuel.
In the current project, fats are hydrogenated by reacting the tallow with hydrogen under high pressure at high temperature. The result is a molecule that's basically a pure-but synthetic-hydrocarbon, which means it's chemically identical to regular diesel.
"It's all the best molecules from petroleum without the harmful ones," National Geographic News quoted Jeff Bigger, Syntroleum's senior vice president for business development, as saying.
It's a low-carbon fuel, releases far fewer sulfur dioxide, particulate, and 58 to 80 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum diesel and can go directly into the petroleum pipeline and refining infrastructure.
It can be blended with petroleum-based diesel or biodiesel and has a dramatically longer shelf life than biodiesel.
The U.S. military is one sector that has expressed interest in renewable diesel and jet fuel.
"The great thing about fats from animals is that they're quite a bit cheaper than vegetable oil. The strength of the venture is the supply," said Douglas Tiffany, a biofuels expert at the University of Minnesota.
But according to Gordon Schrimp, a senior fuels specialist at the California Energy Commission, "It's an excellent conversion of a waste material but I doubt it could ever replace a quarter or half of the diesel supply."