Hurricane Ike Hammers America's Largest Biodiesel Refinery

By Editors on September 17, 2008 1:36 PM
Add one more victim to the general carnage that Hurricane Ike wrought on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Houston-based GreenHunter Energy, the country's largest producer of biodiesel, sustained major damage to its Renewable Fuel Campus, which is home to the firm's main refining facility. Operations there had been shut down for some 48 hours before the storm struck. Since then, it has been without electric power or utility services and is expected to remain closed for six to eight weeks as clean-up operations continue. According to GreenHunter's press statement, the main culprit was not high winds, but high water that crested above a 100-year flood-plain level. While various vegetable oil and ethanol storage tanks were damaged, the only spill requiring special environmental attention was limited to about 50 barrels of canola oil.

In commenting on the structural damage, Bruce Baughman, senior vice president of Technology and Engineering for GreenHunter BioFuels, stated, "So far in our assessment of this disaster, we have concluded that fortunately, damage to major process equipment is minimal. We have discovered damage to smaller reagent tanks, intermediate tanks and their interconnecting piping and pumps, as well as damage to the foundations of smaller tanks. Given the sheer volume of water and the extreme flood levels that we faced, our initial assessment is that we sustained overall minor to moderate impact to the Renewable Fuels Campus from Hurricane Ike."

At full capacity, the GreenHunter refinery is capable of producing up to 100 million barrels of biodiesel per year. Just before Ike hit, the firm announced that it had managed to ramp up to a 65-million barrel level. So far, no further word on how this setback will impact its total 2008 output.