Ames-based biofuels producer, Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG) (NASDAQ: REGI), joined Iowa State University (ISU) at the BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF) for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday to celebrate the start of a new hydrotreater pilot plant. This project is the result of a three-year collaboration between REG and the ISU Bioeconomy Institute.
REG is a global advanced biofuels producer that converts waste and byproduct fats and oils, referred to as feedstocks, into biodiesel and renewable diesel, both cleaner alternatives to traditional petroleum diesel. The ISU BCRF is an integrated research and demonstration facility dedicated to biomass production and processing. This hydrotreater pilot plant will utilize the expertise of both organizations to better understand how various biomass feedstocks can play a role in the production of renewable fuels with a specific focus on renewable diesel.
“This project is a result of our longstanding partnership with Iowa State University, and our joint interest in continuing to position the state of Iowa as a hub for innovation and excellence,” said REG President & CEO, Cynthia (CJ) Warner. “As one of the first biodiesel and renewable diesel producers in the nation, innovating is in our DNA, and having the capability to develop additional feedstock options for our industry will help meet the growing demand for cleaner fuels.”
Renewable diesel is a low-carbon cleaner fuel that, through a catalytic process utilizing heat, pressure and hydrogen, known as hydrotreating, can convert feedstocks into a hydrocarbon fuel that is chemically similar to traditional diesel. Research at this new hydrotreater pilot plant will support REG’s Geismar, Louisiana renewable diesel plant by helping to evaluate new low-carbon feedstocks and optimize production of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
REG’s Geismar, Louisiana renewable diesel production facility was the first renewable diesel production facility located in the U.S. and currently produces 90 million gallons of renewable diesel each year. By 2023, the facility will have the capacity to produce 340 million gallons of renewable diesel through an improvement and expansion project that was announced by REG in 2020. Through the work being done with the hydrotreater pilot plant, REG will continue to build on feedstock abundance for the growing renewable diesel and biodiesel industries.
“ISU is a world-class research institution on the cutting edge of agriculture and biomass utilization, and REG is an industry leader in converting waste biomass to renewable fuels,” said Wendy Wintersteen, President of Iowa State University. “This project is a great collaboration that highlights the commitment to innovation and leverages the strengths of both REG and ISU.”
The pilot plant is a multi-reactor state-of-the-art research and development unit designed by REG’s engineering teams to accelerate the development of new feedstocks and processes. The system is fully automated and configured to run safely and reliably for weeks at a time.
The ribbon cutting event included representatives from REG and ISU, as well as some members of the community. Both President & CEO Warner and President Wintersteen were in attendance at the event.