The Geismar renewable diesel refinery located in Louisiana, US, is being expanded to increase its annual production capacity from the current 90 million gallons to 340 million gallons by 2024. Construction on the £697m ($950m) expansion project was started in October 2021.

Renewable Energy Group (REG), a biofuels producer based in Iowa, US, is the owner and operator of the Geismar renewable diesel facility. The biorefinery came on stream with 75 million gallons a year of biodiesel production capacity in October 2010. It was the first large-scale renewable diesel facility built in the US.

REG acquired the refinery from Dynamic Fuels, a 50:50 joint venture between Syntroleum and Tyson Foods, in June 2014 and carried out upgrades and process improvements to boost the production capacity to 90 million gallons a year.

The previous owners had halted operations of the biodiesel refinery for a scheduled maintenance turnaround in October 2012 and kept it in standby mode due to prevailing economic conditions until REG’s acquisition of the facility in June 2014. REG restarted operations after performing certain upgrades to the plant in October 2014.

The facility was again shutdown due to two separate plant fires in April and September 2015. It resumed operations following repairs of the affected units and process improvements in March 2016.

Geismar renewable diesel plant expansion details

REG announced the Geismar biorefinery capacity expansion plan in October 2020. The 250 million gallons per year expansion project will include new feedstock pretreatment and hydro-processing units, as well as upgrades to the existing plant.

Mechanical completion of the project is expected in 2023, to be followed by commissioning in 2024. At full capacity, the expanded facility is expected to produce enough renewable fuels to offset up to 2.8 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions a year.

Location and site details

The Geismar renewable diesel facility is located in Ascension Parish, southern Louisiana, US. The new processing units as part of the capacity expansion will be installed adjacent to the existing site.

REG acquired 82 acres of land from Lion Copolymer for $20m in June 2017. It included the land that REG had previously leased for the Geismar operations, as well as 62 additional acres near the existing facility.

Feedstock and product details

The feedstock processed by the Geismar biorefinery includes used cooking oil (UCO), tallow, corn oil, and soybean oil. The refinery produces renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable LPG.

Geismar biorefinery process details

The Geismar renewable diesel plant utilises REG’s BioSynfining® technology to produce renewable fuel. The processing infrastructure at the site includes feedstock pre-treatment, hydrotreating and distillation units.

The feedstock is pre-treated to remove contaminants and supplied to the hydrotreating section, where it is processed under high temperature and high pressure in the presence of a catalyst.

The paraffins produced in the hydrotreating process are sent for isomerisation, while the product stream is distilled to produce renewable diesel, renewable naphtha and renewable LPG.

A fuel gas sulphur treatment system was redesigned and installed at the refinery in 2019. The catalyst used in the biodiesel production process was also replaced and other maintenance works were carried out as part of a turnaround of the Geismar biorefinery in 2020.

Hydrotreater pilot plant for the Geismar renewable diesel facility

REG built a hydrotreater pilot plant in collaboration with the Iowa State University at the BioCentury Research Farm, Boone, Iowa, in October 2021.

The hydrotreater pilot plant will evaluate new feedstocks and processes to produce renewable fuels with a special focus on renewable diesel. The research inputs from the hydrotreater pilot plant are expected to optimise production at the REG Geismar renewable diesel facility.

IMTT Geismar marine terminal expansion details

International-Matex Tank Terminals (IMTT) has received a long-term lease contract from REG to provide storage facilities in support of the Geismar biodiesel refinery expansion. IMTT is a US-based company that owns and operates bulk liquid storage terminal facilities for petroleum, chemical, consumer products.

The company announced to expand its Geismar marine terminal to handle renewable feedstocks and biofuel products from the expanded biorefinery facility in August 2021.

The Geismar marine terminal expansion will include the construction of six new storage tanks, two pipelines, and associated dock and loading infrastructure.