Soy Diesel? Biodiesel Plant Opens in Galveston

One of the biggest biodiesel production facilities in the nation is offically open for business in Galveston, a plant that could eventually produce 110 million gallons of renewable fuel each year. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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The BioSelect Fuels plant opened about a month ago and is a partnership between Houston-based Standard Renewable Energy and Chevron USA. In its first phase, the plant will produce about 20 million gallons of pure biodiesel a year using mostly soybeans. Rick Zalesky is the vice president for biofuels and hydrogen for Chevron Technology Ventures.

"Our point of view is if we're thinking maybe two, three decades down the road the global energy demand is going to go up by 50 percent over what we see today and part of meeting that future demand is going to be biofuels. It's not the only thing we're going to be doing but it's certainly a material and measurable part of that. Oil and gas is probably still the dominant energy source, but something like what we see today in Galveston could be part of meeting that future demand."

Biodiesel is really nothing new. Peanut oil was used to fuel a prototype diesel engine in 1900. The father of the diesel engine, Rudolph Diesel, praised the potential of vegetable oils for engine fuels around the same time. Congressman Nick Lampson says producing biodiesel is simply more cost effective now.

"That means that these companies are going to have the opportunity for making a profit and I think as long as the government is there to help jumpstart the industry, subsidize these things and provide the incentives for them to be doing it, then in time it will be able to stand on its own."

The US Department of Energy says biodiesel could make up about 10 percent of the US diesel market by 2015. Standard Renewable Energy Chairman and CEO John Berger says it's about time.

"This is really important to be able to expand that supply of energy and expand that supply of energy in a much more clean fashion if you will. Not just, as people talk about, saving the world for our kids, and I have three kids under the age of three so I can certainly appreciate that. Unfortunately I think that we've gotten ourselves to the point that we're actually saving the world for ourselves at this point. That's why this is so important."

Biodiesel burns cleaner than regular diesel and can be used in most diesel engines without much modification. School buses and city trucks in Galveston will be some of the first consumers of the BioSelect biodiesel. This is Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

"At a time when we're looking to bring the price of gasoline down and help our environment, this is the answer and we just need to do more of it. I'm very pleased that Chevron is making this investment because when the big oil companies make this commitment, it means that we're going to see more capability to use it and build on it."

You can find out more about the BioSelect facility in Galveston through a link on our website, KUHF.org.

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