Business Feature: Biodiesel plant taking shape

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Job site superintendent Doug Noguez, left, of Agate Construction and Kevin Rubright, construction manager for ARES Corp., oversee work on the Clovis Biodiesel plant.

By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor

In what was once a winter wheat field sits clusters of stainless and carbon steel tanks.

The 14 tanks are the main components of the Clovis Biodiesel facility, which is the first occupant of the 237-acre Clovis Industrial Park taking shape in the shadows of rows of corn and a dairy farm south of Clovis.

Being built by ARES Blue Sun, Clovis Biodiesel will occupy 10 acres in the southwest corner of the industrial park.

When it begins operation in late January or early February, the $18 million project also will be New Mexico’s first commercial-scale biodiesel production facility, according to company officials.

Construction is about 40 percent complete and a month behind schedule, according to Clovis Biodiesel construction manager Kevin Rubright.

“We got off to a slow start,” he said. “Early on we had problems with the weather.”

Groundbreaking was delayed by March’s tornado, he said, and the wet spring, including snow on Easter, didn’t allow them to catch up.
“We have regained some good momentum,” Rubright said. “Now it’s going really well.”

The metal tanks surround three steel pre-engineered buildings: one for administrative offices, a second for maintenance and the third and largest, 70 by 75 feet, to hold the process equipment.

The largest tank will hold more than 300,000 gallons of feedstock, either canola or soybean oil, Rubright said.

Come January, the canola or soybean oil will be converted into biodiesel at the rate of 15 million gallons a year.

The feedstock oil will come from Colorado and Oklahoma by rail, get mixed with methanol as the primary catalyst along with other ingredients to produce the biodiesel.

The biodiesel will be shipped to Blue Sun Biodiesel for processing and blending with petroleum diesel to make a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel, according to ARES Blue Sun Development Vice President Gerry Runte.

The plant will also produce about 130,000 gallons of a solution that will be mostly glycerin, Runte said. Glycerin is used in cosmetics as well as other products.

ARES Blue Sun Development is a joint venture of ARES Corp. and Blue Sun Biodiesel.

“Our part of the partnership (is to) design, procure and construct (the plant while) Blue Sun will secure feedstock agreements and market the product,” Rubright said.

Runte said the Clovis plant “is the first of what we hope to be several (biodiesel) plants across the country — we are still in the process of deciding where these plants are going to go. Clovis, however, could easily be expanded to double its size within the boundaries of the Industrial Park, and that is certainly an option we are considering.”

A second biodiesel facility, American Renewable Fuels, is expected to begin construction at the industrial park in January, according to Clovis Industrial Development Executive Director Chase Gentry.

The Australian company plans to produce 75 million gallons of biodiesel from animal fat and have 40 full-time employees.

By the numbers: Clovis Biodiesel

Employees expected to operate the plant.

Tanks on site

Estimated cost in millions of dollars

Yearly biodiesel production in millions of gallons