ConocoPhillips, Tyson Foods form renewable diesel fuel alliance

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ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods Inc. recently announced a strategic alliance to produce and market the next generation of renewable diesel fuel, which will help supplement the traditional petroleum-based diesel fuel supply. The alliance plans to use beef, pork and poultry by-product fat to create a transportation fuel. This fuel will contribute to America’s energy security and help to address climate change concerns, the companies say.

The companies say they have been collaborating over the past year on ways to leverage Tyson’s knowledge in protein chemistry and production with ConocoPhillips’ processing and marketing expertise to introduce a renewable diesel to the United States. Tyson will make capital improvements this summer in order to begin pre-processing animal fat from some of its North American rendering facilities later in the year. ConocoPhillips also will begin the necessary capital expenditures to enable it to produce the fuel in several of its refineries. The finished product, according to the companies, will be renewable diesel fuel mixtures that meet all federal standards for ultra-low-sulfur diesel. Production is expected to ramp up over time to as much as 175 million gallons per year of renewable diesel.

“We are firmly committed to leveraging our leadership position in the food industry to identify and commercialize renewable energy opportunities,” says Richard L. Bond, president and chief executive officer of Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson. “This strategic alliance is a big win for the entire agricultural sector because it paves the way for greater participation of fats and oils in renewable fuels.”

“ConocoPhillips believes the key to a secure energy future is the development and efficient use of diverse energy sources,” says Jim Mulva, chairman and chief executive officer of Houston-based ConocoPhillips. “This alliance will provide a new and significant contribution to our nation’s domestic renewable fuel supply. It also offers an excellent opportunity to use our company’s manufacturing expertise and advanced technology to help increase the supply of renewable fuels and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Using a proprietary thermal depolymerization production technology, the animal fats will be processed with hydrocarbon feedstocks to produce a high-quality diesel fuel that meets all federal standards for ultra-low-sulfur diesel, the companies say; the addition of animal fat also improves the fuel’s ignition properties, while the processing step improves its storage stability and handling characteristics.

The companies says their investments will allow for the processing and handling of fat and enhance the ability of the United States to produce energy from a variety of sources, including domestically-produced vegetable oils. The processing technology was developed at ConocoPhillips, culminating in what it says was a successful test at the company’s Whitegate Refinery in Cork, Ireland.

ConocoPhillips began commercial production of renewable diesel using soybean oil in Ireland late last year. Bond says the alliance is expected to be a positive step for Tyson’s long-term financial performance. “Production is expected to begin in late calendar year 2007, ramping up through spring 2009,” Bond says.