Mid-South News
5:54 am
Thu September 18, 2008

Memphis Biofuels Tour

Memphis, TN – As fuel prices continue to fluctuate and remain high, scientists search for renewable fuel sources to free America from foreign oil. Candice Ludlow reports on how one organization in Memphis is using animal fat.

Memphis Biofuels is located in an old, converted Proctor and Gamble cotton seed storage and fats processing facility, just off of Airways in Orange Mound. On most days, tanker trucks pull up to the dock to fill up with biodiesel. It doesn't look like much. A small building attached to the dock, a weigh station and a gravel parking lot. Just beyond the dusty parking lot is the refinery.

At Memphis Biofuels, they use rendered animal fats, which arrive by rail and truck.

Ken Arnold is the President and CEO of the biodiesel refinery. He said as they were gearing up for production in 2006 that the price for soybeans skyrocketed, so they had to come up with an alternative feedstock, rendered animal fats.

Our first stop is the control room. Ken Arnold shows us how everything in the refinery is controlled by a series of computers that are manned by two engineers to ensure that they make quality biodiesel.

Now, we're heading into the refinery itself - We walk in between several large, gray tanks. A couple of them look like corrugated cardboard, but their metal. Pipes run throughout the plant. The ground is wet, and railroad tracks run through.

Then methanol and glycerin are separated from the crude biodiesel. They re-use the methanol and sell the glycerin as a by-product.

Then they cool the methanol to use again.

Currently, biodiesel is cheaper than diesel, says Ken Arnold. That's because the government subsidizes its production.

They have no problem selling the biodiesel. They don't even have to ship it because the city and Pilot picks it up as fast as they make it.

As we leave the refinery, we cross the gravel parking lot and see a Pilot tanker filling up with biodiesel that will then be blended with diesel at area Pilot stations. They supply area Pilot stations with a biodiesel blend. Ken Arnold says, Pilot will take as much as they can make. Pilot and city tanker trucks pull into the filling station at Memphis Biofuels almost daily. Locally, a biodiesel blend is available at area Pilot stations, gas stations and some farmer co-ops.