A central Iowa plant could soon begin producing jet fuel from poultry fat.
Bolingbrook, Illinois-based Elevance Renewable Sciences plans to build a $15 million plant in Newton, Iowa adding onto an existing biodiesel operation.
The experimental operation plans to use plant oils and poultry fat as building blocks to replace petroleum-based chemicals used to make myriad products, including jet fuel, lubricants, adhesives and even cosmetics and candles.
"It allows us to make a very interesting slate of products, which is different and somewhat in contrast to how poultry fat is used today," said K'Lynne Johnson, Elevance's chief executive.
The project, funded in part by $2.5 million from the US Department of Energy, could get the final go-ahead by late January, Johnson said. The company also is seeking state financial support.
According to USDA, the US poultry industry produces about 625,000 tonnes of poultry fat every year.
Adding value for poultry farmers
Using Elevance's technology, that fat could produce about 950 million litres of products including diesel fuel, jet fuel and specialty chemicals that can replace petroleum products, Johnson said.
"In some ways it subsidizes actual food production because it lets poultry farmers get higher value for every chicken that they raise for food," Johnson said.
Quentin Browell, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, a worldwide airlines trade group, said it's looking to other biomass feedstocks such as the camelina plant, jatropha tree and algae for aviation fuel.
Although it's not now working with any companies to develop animal fat, Browell said "we also investigate the feasibility of other sources."
In the US only a handful of companies appear to be working on turning poultry fat into fuel and national renewable fuels trade organizations said they aren't keeping track of the numbers.