February 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm #1929
2/17/2012 @ 5:36PM By Christopher Helm Forbes Staff
Making Cars Carnivores: Tyson Venture Turns Animal Fat Into Diesel
In recent months McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell announced that they will no longer use ground beef made with “pink slime.”
Pink slime is the nickname for the beef product made out of scraps gathered from the slaughterhouse floor then mushed up and treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill e. coli and salmonella. Consumer groups and celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver think the process is so gross that they campaigned the chains to change practice. Other fast food franchises still use the gunk in their meat, and it remains a primary ingredient in dog food.
Good thing internal combustion engines (and dogs) aren’t as finicky as humans. In addition to pink slime, there’s lots of useful if unsavory stuff that comes out of slaughterhouses, like beef tallow, yellow grease and chicken fat. It turns out that the right refinery can turn these animal fats into far better diesel and jet fuel than is commonly distilled from crude oil.
If people don’t want to eat these animal parts, why not feed them to cars, trains and planes?
This week meat giant Tyson Foods and fuel-maker Syntroleum announced that their Dynamic Fuels joint venture was selling millions of gallons of animal-fat-based diesel to Norfolk Southern railroad to power freight trains.
Tyson provides the feedstock for the renewable diesel, which it sources from slaughterhouses across the country. The refining process is done at a $170 million plant they opened last year in Geismar, La. It takes roughly 7 pounds of fat to make one gallon of fuel.
The diesel they make is what’s known as a “drop-in” fuel – meaning you can use it as a direct substitute for regular diesel. Plus, it’s higher quality, with cetane levels as high as 88. Cetane is the equivalent of octane in gasoline; the higher cetane, the more evenly and more powerfully the fuel combusts. The average diesel has a cetane level of less than 50. The fuel also has a lower freezing point than regular diesel, making it idea for cold climates. And because the animal fat doesn’t start out with the impurities as fossil petroleum, the diesel has ultra low particulates, making it good for underground mining or anywhere air pollution is a problem.
Makes good jet fuel too. Syntroleum has had its synthetic jet fuels certified for use by the Air Force, and last November Dynamic Fuels announced a deal to provide the juice to Alaska Airlines.
These are far better fuels than ethanol, which although blended with gasoline, is nowhere near being a drop-in fuel because unlike gasoline and diesel it readily mixes with water. Ethanol also has far less energy content by volume than gasoline.
A product like this reduces reliance on petroleum, is good for trucks and trains, and might help keep gross stuff out of the human food supply (watch the documentary “Food, Inc.” if you want a gut-wrenching depiction of how that pink slime is made).
Syntroleum reports that it is still losing money on the venture – turning a profit will require expanding the scale and convincing buyers to pay a premium for a better fuel. In time, the Geismar plant could produce as much as 75 million gallons per year. With all the beef and chicken Americans eat, U.S. slaughterhouses generate roughly 10 billion pounds a year of inedible animal fats. This may sound like a Saudi Arabia of oily glop, but considering that much of it is already destined for products like soap, crayons, cosmetics and shortening, there’s really not a lot left over for fuel. The Dynamic Fuels plant, and another bigger one being developed by oil refining giant Valero Energy, will soak up about 10% of total fat supplies.
Ultimately, this drop-in fuel will never amount to more than a drop of the 58 billion gallons of diesel the U.S. burns each year.
February 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm #4706
I Thought you would like this – it’s a good article by Forbes about using animal fat & Pink Slime to make diesel fuel.
And its another great article by Christopher Helms – almost as good as his: Nuke Us/Nimby Boom/China Fracks US! Good to have someone in Forbes/Media commenting on Oil & Energy Industry that has common sense & open mind for change.
The “Cars as Carnivore” is good title & take on option that has been around for nearly decade now – Remember the “Turkey Guts to Gasoline” /Butterball Turkey Offal via Thermodepolymerization to fuels. ConocoPhillips also did plant with Tyson in to provide fuel into its Borger Refinery. A lot these types synergy plants died when Congress cut the $1/gal excise Tax credit down $0.50/gal – like they do anything works with any established Fossil fuel producer (who they also made ineligible for this credit). Hypocrite’s & Idiots abound in the Environmental/political/Media areas.
And as Helms says the volume is just drop bucket on our energy demands fuel & like solar is nice add-on but not option for base replacement potential. US now has ~75% of its Gas/Diesel produced in Just 7 sates (if you grouping East Coast NJ/Del/PA as one state – who are about shut 50% capacity with recent stupid LS reg’s on Heating oil that’s ~40% their product) – the other 39 states with little no refinery are going need these “animal fat” substitutes!
Good intel on Food industry also – Turns out Pink Slime could be bad tasting stuff in Hamburgers that probably accounts for reason it doesn’t taste like Hamburger (in addition to soy filler). If food industry calls it Pink Slime …… its got to be bad!
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