Soybean South

 - BIOFUEL -

From The Field
To The Fuel Tank

Arkansas SoyEnergy Group LLC buys soybeans from farmers in the
Dewitt area, crushes the beans, extracts the oil and processes it into fuel
all at a single location.

 

When brothers Jon and Troy Hornbeck traveled to Argentina a few years ago on a project for the familyowned Hornbeck Seed Company, they weren’t looking for inspiration for their next business project.

As fate would have it, that’s exactly what they found. As they visited with a partnering firm in Argentina, they heard about a local fuel plant that was producing soy-based biodiesel because onsite production was cheaper than bringing in fuel from an outside source.

The Hornbecks realized that with the abundance of soybeans grown in Arkansas, it should be feasible to develop a biodiesel plant in their hometown of DeWitt.

Upon returning home, the Hornbecks immediately began researching the possibility of developing a biodiesel facility of their own. They envisioned a facility that would benefit local farmers by creating a new market for their crops and producing fuel from a homegrown source. Along with their brother Jeff, Jon and Troy created Arkansas SoyEnergy Group LLC and went to work.

Ten million gallons of B100
Fast forward a few years, and the Hornbecks have turned their idea into a reality.

In mid-February more than 200 people joined the Hornbecks to celebrate the grand opening of the state’s first biodiesel facility that has an on-site crusher capable of taking locally grown soybeans “from the field to the fuel tank” at one location. The crushing and extraction facility began operating in September 2007, and fuel production will begin in April 2008.

Arkansas SoyEnergy’s crushing facility has the capacity to produce approximately 3.5 million gallons of soy oil and was constructed to allow for 100 percent capacity increase in the future. When completed later this year, the fuel production unit will be able to produce up to 10 million gallons of 100 percent biodiesel (B100).

The facility is designed for flexibility to take advantage of market conditions: If economic conditions limit demand for B100, the plant’s foodgrade soy oil can be sold as cooking oil or for other uses. Byproducts include soy meal for animal feeds and glycerin, which is used in medicines, soaps and other products.

Arkansas SoyEnergy’s facility produces no toxic wastes or unwanted byproducts.

Stronger state economy
The Feb. 19 event was attended by federal and state government officials, industry leaders, area farmers and members of the local community.

“It is time for America to take ownership of its energy problem as a nation and develop domestic fuels that can meet our nation’s energy demand in the future,” said U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Arkansas SoyEnergy’s new biodiesel facility will take great strides toward producing renewable fuels more efficiently, while creating new markets for our farmers and bringing more jobs to the region,” she added.

U.S. Representative Marion Berry noted during the grand opening that “developing new markets as well as sustainable forms of domestic energy is crucial to the success of the local economies in Arkansas. This facility offers a much needed market opportunity for local farmers and will boost the economy in southeast Arkansas.

“As co-chair of the congressional soybean caucus, I continue to advocate the use of soybeans as a source of domestic energy to ensure the agricultural industry in Arkansas and America has access to a supply of homegrown energy solutions.”

State Rep. and Arkansas House Speaker Benny Petrus of Stuttgart said, “This is a big day for the farmers of southeast Arkansas and for the biofuels industry in our state. I have always been dedicated to our farmers, and I’ve worked with many others to establish an Arkansas biofuels incentives program. We need this facility, as well as others around the state, to succeed in order to have a stronger economy in our state.”

Troy Hornbeck told the audience, “Our mission has always been to promote the success of local farmers, and this facility creates a new market for soybeans grown around DeWitt. In addition, Arkansas SoyEnergy can provide local farmers, truckers and others a renewable and competitively priced alternative to petroleum diesel.”

First of its kind in Arkansas
Arkansas SoyEnergy is the state’s first biodiesel facility that only uses soybean oil as its feedstock. No other Arkansas biodiesel plant has an integrated operation to crush soybeans, extract the oil and process it into fuel at a single location.

Jon Hornbeck noted that soybeans are grown in 50 of Arkansas’ 75 counties, and the state economy is tremendously reliant on agriculture.

“When farmers succeed, their community thrives, and the whole state can prosper,” he said. “Arkansas legislators understood that when they created the state’s first biodiesel incentives during the 2007 General Assembly. This is an exciting time for farming communities; to keep growing, the biodiesel industry needs and deserves the continued support of elected officials at all levels.”

Abundant, renewable resource
Unlike petroleum, soybeans are a renewable resource, and the domestic supply is abundant. Research shows biodiesel burns cleaner than petroleum diesel, with substantial reductions in exhaust emissions of ozone-forming hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, particulates, sulfur oxide and sulfates. Biodiesel also helps to lubricate engines so they may run more smoothly and incur less wear.

In the United States, soy-based diesel and other biodiesel fuels usually are blended with petroleum diesel, with blends ranging from 2 to 20 percent biodiesel. Numerous manufacturers have approved use of blended biodiesel in their engines. However, many vehicles can operate on unblended biodiesel.

The National Biodiesel Board reports that U.S. biodiesel production has grown from 500,000 gallons of B100 in 1999 to an estimated 250 million gallons in 2007. Soybeans are the primary feedstock for U.S. biodiesel production.

Arkansas SoyEnergy Group, LLC provided information for this article.


Small Town Company Makes Good

Arkansas SoyEnergy Group is a part of Hornbeck Agricultural Group, which includes Hornbeck Seed Company and Worldwide SoyTechnologies.

The Hornbeck Seed Company started in 1981 as a small company selling soybean seeds to local farmers. Over the past 27 years, the company has grown into one of the Mid-South’s premier seed dealers.

As a farming family themselves, the Hornbecks have always taken on new projects in the hope that they will benefit the local farming community in the state. With the new biodiesel facility, they are in keeping with that goal.

The plant will buy soybeans from local farmers within a 35 to 50 mile radius, turn the soybeans into biodiesel and sell it back to farmers and others within the same radius.

The plant has received its fair share of public and media attention in the past few months. A number of school groups, local businesspeople and others have seen the facility since late September, and media interviews are a regular occurrence there.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe toured the biodiesel plant a few days before the grand opening.

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln, U.S. Rep. Marion Berry and Arkansas House Speaker Benny Petrus participated in the grand opening event and recognized the Hornbecks for their commitment to local farmers and the agriculture community.

In their remarks at the grand opening, all three elected officials discussed the importance of the Arkansas SoyEnergy facility and their continued support for farmers in Arkansas.