Scotland leads the way in biodiesel development

A major new £15 million Biodiesel Plant at Newarthill, near Motherwell, now half way through its construction, points the way to a "green" energy future. The new plant, which will be capable of producing 50 million litres of Biodiesel annually and provide nearly 5 % of Scotland's diesel needs, will open its doors in early Spring 2005.

It will provide a safe and effective means of disposing of used cooking oils, such as those produced by the UK’s fast food and catering industries and convert them into Biodiesel.

The plant will also provide a waste disposal solution to the imminent EU ban on using used cooking oils (UCO) in animal feeds, which will become fully effective in 2005.

The new plant also be capable of converting animal fats (tallow), and this will ensure a disposal route for this material which may help put some value back into the agricultural supply chain.

Developer of the project, Argent Energy has demonstrated its commitment to building the nation’s first large-scale Biodiesel production plant, fuelling the UK’s renewable energy drive.

Argent Energy is also leading a partnership with two universities in Graz, Austria, including The University of Graz’s Institute of Chemistry – a leading academic authority on Biodiesel research with extensive experience in the field of chemistry and renewable resources. The Technical University of Graz’s Institute of Biotechnology is looking at the life-cycle analysis (LCA) of Biodiesel, and the Institute of Chemical Engineering is researching the co-products and added value products that could be gained from Biodiesel.

Argent Energy has worked over the last three years to secure the clean, green, fuel project for Lanarkshire and has been assisted with development funding from Bank of Scotland Corporate Banking. The first European funding grant of its kind – of e3.15 million (approximately £2million) – has also been obtained to assist in the research and development of Biodiesel and its co-products from the European Commission. The Argent energy EU grant (BIODIEPRO) was awarded funding at earlier stage under the 5th Framework Directive projects for Community Added value and Contribution to EU energy related products.

Argent Energy has also received a Regional Select Assistance Grant of £1.2 million from the Scottish Executive. This was followed by the signing a £7 million contract with Mowlem to build the plant.

At the ceremony marking the start of construction, Andy Hunter, Director of Argent Energy, said: “We are delighted that work has finally began on the first Biodiesel plant in Scotland, and possibly, the largest facility of its kind anywhere in the world. The plant will be capable of processing most used cooking oils and fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, into biodiesel, with expected output of 50 million litres per year.

“Biodiesel is renewable, sustainable and environmentally friendly. It has been proven to be less toxic than salt, and as biodegradable as sugar. What’s more it has the ability to be used on its own or mixed with mineral diesel and even improves fossil fuels’ biodegradability. This means that it could also be added at refinery stage to improve fuel characteristics creating a win-win, environmentally-friendly situation for everyone which is good for the environment and good for business.”

Government backing

Jim Wallace, Scotland’s Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, praised this world-first development. Also speaking at the event, he said: “I am delighted to see that work has begun on Argent Energy’s new Biodiesel plant, and welcome this investment in Newarthill. I am pleased to announce that the Executive has supported this project with a Regional Selective Assistance Grant of £1.2 million.
“The plant will contribute to a number of EU energy related objectives to increase the amount of renewable energy. Indeed, implementing the energy conversion process via the plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as Biodiesel can become a substitute for fossil fuel, providing an alternative source of fuel for transport.
“This is an exciting initiative which can have benefits for both our environment and our economy.”

Mr Wallace also said: “Scotland has the potential to become a world leader in the new ‘green’ economy of the future, and to create jobs across a range of sectors, including recycling, renewable energy and the development and manufacture of cleaner technologies.

“The Biodiesel projects has the potential to deliver significant environmental and economic benefits, and is expected to provide 5% of Scotland’s diesel needs.”

Subcontractors & consultants

A major subcontractor providing the technology for the Argent Energy plant is Austrian firm Biodiesel International (BDI), the world leader in this technology, and one of the few companies in the world that produces the technology for the conversion of oils, saturated and unsaturated fats, into Biodiesel.
Consultant FaberMaunsell has a major role in the construction of the £15 million Biodiesel Plant as civil, structural and mechanical and electrical engineering design consultant, including the geotechnical site investigation and mining consolidation advanced works.

Agent Energy expects completion of the new plant in December 2004 and for it to be capable of production early next year.

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