Poultry Fat – and a fuller picture of our interest in different feedstocks
Every morning, about 8:20AM or so, I get an email in my inbox from a news crawler service which, ahem, plucks relevant headlines from the web for my attention. For example, this past week, many of the headlines have been highlighting one aspect of our successful application for the Department of Energy to fund our demonstration plant. The articles have tended to emphasize that oil sourced from inedible poultry fat is one of the feedstocks which we plan to run in the unit. (Additionally, they thankfully avoided, er, laying an egg by ignoring obviously bad humor. For example, I was disappointed not to see: “Flightless bird to provide fuel for planes”, or, “Beak-through technology provides cheapcheapcheap path to renewable chemicals.”
That said, I wanted to take the chance to provide a fuller picture of our interest in different feedstocks. Using our planned demonstration unit in Newton, we intend to establish and illustrate the viability of our technology to work with a number of natural oils. These oils include emerging oils like jatropha, algae, and others as well traditional industrial oils like soy, palm, and canola. There are several characteristics which make different oils more or less attractive. These include:
- Composition of the oil, which has implications on the cost to process the oil as well as the mix of and value for the end products we would make
- The extent to which the oil is already produced at scale and consumed in industrial uses
- The proximity of supply sources to the various consumption hubs for our products
- The sustainability of the oil source
- Its market price
In the case of poultry fat, because of its composition, looks like it could be a very interesting feedstock to us because it allows us to make a slate of products with higher average value in the market. It is worth noting that this is an almost opposite reason to why biodiesel producers like animal fats, which they use because animal fats are less expensive to buy despite causing them product quality issues.
As additional context, the DoE grant framework focused on inedible, domestically produced, high impact feedstocks (meaning they will be produced in high volumes in the near term) and poultry fat is one of the only domestically produced oils which appears to meet this criteria today. Notably, besides projects whose aims were explicitly around growing and extracting oil from algae, ours appears to have been the only project funded emphasizing making chemical products from natural oils.
The US produces only about 1.4 billion pounds (roughly 200 million gallons) of poultry fat each year from which, using our technology, would give us roughly 250 million gallons of products such as high value specialty chemicals, jet fuel type kerosene, petroleum replacing waxes, and others. Though our DoE grant emphasized poultry fat for the reasons noted above, fundamentally, our technology can work on almost any natural oil. Our unit in Iowa will be useful in providing data for the commercial design of fully feedstock flexible commercial-scale units.
Guest post by Omar Abou-Sayed.