InterviewEvonik sees US biodiesel demand upside

31 July 2008 17:28  [Source: ICIS news]

By Doris de Guzman

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--The US biodiesel market is poised to pick up as methanol and vegetable oil feedstock prices have declined from last year’s highs, an Evonik Degussa executive said on Thursday.

“The US biodiesel industry is now seeing a strong pick-up in demand over the last 2-3 months as methanol prices have come down sharply from their historical highs in the first quarter of this year,” said Jose Berges, vice president and general manager of Evonik’s electrolysis products & alkoxides.

Also, “Vegetable oil prices are also no longer at the peak levels that they were last year,” he added. “We also saw sharp palm oil price reduction in southeast Asia and that has reflected on soybean oil prices as well.”

The near-term implication for the biodiesel market is that that demand will continue to pick up,” said Berges. Methanol and vegetable oils are components in biodiesel production.

Evonik broke ground on Wednesday on the construction of its alkoxide plant in Mobile, Alabama.

Alkoxides are used as catalysts in biodiesel production. Evonik said its sodium methylate and potassium methylate catalysts produced at the site will be sold in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) market.

The Mobile plant, which will have capacity of 60,000 tonnes/year, is expected to start operations in February 2009.

The catalysts have the flexibility to be used with any type of biodiesel feedstock such as soybean oil, rapeseed oil, animal fats or waste cooking oil, said Berges.

Evonik is also testing its catalysts on second generation non-food oil feedstocks such as algae and jatropha.

“The research is still early in the process but in principle it should work on algae oil-based biodiesel production,” Berges said.

Evonik is planning to build another alkoxide plant in Brazil and is eyeing the Asian biodiesel market as well, he added.

Asia is also on our radar screen. We can invest in that market if the opportunity arises,” Berges said.

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By: Doris de Guzman
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