Elevance’s biorefinery in Natchez given green light
NATCHEZ — Elevance Renewable Sciences announced early today plans for its world-scale biorefinery in Natchez now has a green light.
Elevance committed in 2011 to bringing 165 permanent jobs to Adams County, but the company sought to first meet the benchmark of getting its first biorefinery in Gresick, Indonesia, into production before moving forward. The Indonesian facility began operations earlier this year.
The work in Natchez aims to expand the company’s production of its Inherent renewable building blocks line in 2016, and the company has already invested $30 million in the Natchez site.
“Our customer forecasts for Inherent renewable building blocks call for demand to exceed Gresick’s capacity,” Elevance Chief Executive Officer K’Lynne Johnson said. “With commercial production under way at Gresick, customer activity continues to increase in each of our market platforms.
“By building biorefineries in multiple geographies, we are able to meet customer demand for better-performing, cost-competitive renewable alternatives to petrochemicals across multiple industries. We will also be providing our customers with the added security of two world-scale commercial plants with diversified feed supply chains.”
Elevance Executive Vice President for Sales and Market Development Andy Shafer said the company would build two more biorefinery elements on the company’s property in the Natchez-Adams County Port, the former Delta Biofuels. An existing biodiesel production is already in operation there.
Using proprietary technology, Elevance will break the carbon chain of its feed stock in three places to produce different specialty chemicals, Shafer said, with each of the three biorefinery elements feeding into the next process, Shafer said.
The products Elevance makes at its biorefineries will include olefins and oleochemicals that can be used in personal care products, detergents and cleaners, lubricants and additives, engineered polymers, among other things.
The Natchez location will manufacture novel specialty chemicals, including multifunctional esters such as 9-decenoic methyl ester, a unique distribution of bio-based alpha and internal olefins including decene and a premium mixture of oleochemicals.
The Natchez biorefinery will operate using canola or soybean oil, while the Gresick biorefinery now uses palm oil.
Shafer said the expansion at Natchez will take 18-24 months, and will create approximately 300 construction jobs.
“Construction will stop and start,” he said. “Some equipment will take nine to 10 months to get depending on what is happening in the industry, but during that time we can still work on things like permitting.”
Elevance’s Natchez Plant Manager Kevin Diesen said what work could be done in advance of the large project has been done, for example, replacing a cooling tower from the 1960s with one that would be able to support the expanded facility. An unnecessary building that was on the footprint of the eventual expansion was also torn down.
“We knew we were going to have to do that eventually, so we took the opportunity to do that now,” he said.
Some work has already begun and will continue to ramp up in the coming months, Diesen said.
Other obsolete equipment has been removed, which company officials said will save more than $1 million off initial project estimates.
The company has also shown what green space will remain on its property to customers in case they are interested in using it, Diesen said.
“There has been little you could see if you stood outside the fence looking in, but there has been a lot going on inside,” Shafer said.
Elevance has tripled production at the Natchez facility since taking over two years ago, producing more than 20 million gallons of biodiesel. Seven employees from Natchez were involved in the commissioning of the Indonesia project, and Diesen said the Natchez location currently has 30 employees on site including contract workers, maintenance and security.