COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)-100 employees at a Columbus plant may be changing the way they think about gas and diesel, or at least the way it’s made and processed.
Kior turns wood into fuel in a process that could take renewable energy to another level. The plant is the first of its kind and opened its doors in October.
Mike O’Keefe, Kior’s plant manager, provided WCBI a tour around the facility. The start up-alternative fuels company broke ground two years ago and started production late last fall.
“At Kior, we’re using renewable sources of feedstock, in this case, southern yellow pine and we’re converting that into hydrocarbons which are later transferred into transportation fuels,” said O’Keefe.
These transportation fuels are used everyday, as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Kior is the world’s first commercial scale fuels production facility.
“We bring in southern, yellow pine on log trucks, we debark it, we grind it in chip mills. We dry it and then we feed it into our cat cracker and it’s converted into hydrocarbon and oil in a matter of seconds. From that point on it’s hydro treated and further processed into transportation fuels,” said O’Keefe.
Once the process is complete and the wood is turned into gasoline, trucks pick it up at the facility and take it to fuel terminals,” said O’Keefe.
The plant has only shipped one truckload of diesel so far this year, but that number is expected to grow as the process is refined and the product becomes more pure.
“After that oil’s been picked up as transportation fuel, it goes on to our customers and they distribute it within their fuel distribution system to put in cars and trucks,” said O’Keefe.
The EPA has cleared the product as a fuel drop in, much like ethanol. It could get even better ratings as work continues. O’Keefe says the new plant is a major step for the biofuels industry.
“It’s important to have alternatives to crude oil. And this is one of those alternatives and what’s nice about this is it’s a truly renewable source,” said O’Keefe.
A source he hopes will continue to lead America to a cleaner future.
Kior also plans to build a similar, but larger facility in Natchez. It’s expected to process three times the woody biomass produced in Columbus.