Biodiesel in Region 8

March 13, 2006--Posted at 6:15 p.m. CST

BATESVILLE, AR--As the race for governor in Arkansas heats up one platform both candidates share is the push for alternative fuels. Every time we fuel up our tanks, we are reminded of our dependence on foreign oil.  Over the past year Americans have seen unprecedented prices at the pump and it has lead some to look towards alternative fuel sources.

"Every time we burn a gallon of biodiesel or bioethanol we are reducing our dependence on foreign oil," said Randall Powell, General Manager of Eastman Chemical.

The Eastman Chemical Company in Batesville is one of approximately 60 plants in the U.S. that produces the fuel alternative using soy beans. It’s a product they feel could provide a major economic boost to struggling farmers.

"The dollar that we spend on biodiesel stays right here in our country in fact stays here in our state and it supports not only our economy but jobs in our state," said Powell.

It's a dynamic product that is made through a fairly simple process.

"You start with oil in this case we use soy bean oil and you react it with a low P.H. or high P.H. catalyst then with methanol to create the final biodiesel product," said Eastman Chemical Manufacturing Supervisor Dave Magouyrk.

Eastman Chemical is the only plant in the state that produces biodiesel. The entire process soy bean oil to biodiesel takes roughly 12 to 24 hours and for the Eastman plant all the factors were in place to produce biodiesel.

"It allowed us to use our existing facilities capacity, take advantage of our chemical expertise, and source raw materials from here in the state," said Powell.

Eastman began producing biodiesel in October at a rate of 3 million gallons a year. That rate has now doubled and Eastman is still looking to expand even more. Eastman produces a 100 percent biodiesel which is then sold to distributors who mix it with regular diesel.

"Usually sold as B-2, B-5, B-10, or B-20 which refers to the percentage of the 100 percent of the material in the final product," said Magouyrk.

Biodiesel is readily available in the ag community through farm co-ops and other petroleum distributors. Eastman is currently looking into other avenues to make it more accessible to regular consumers.

"Clearly biodiesel and bioethanol are reaching a point where they are reaching a parody with petro-diesel," said Powell.

If pump prices continue to soar this product could become even more appealing to consumers. In addition to being comparably priced to regular diesel, biodiesel also burns cleaner and is safer for the environment.  Eastman Chemical Company in Batesville is the only chemical company in the state that currently produces biodiesel.