IS CHICKEN FAT AN ALTERNATE FUEL?

By Yvonne Sweeney

I can remember my mother rendering chicken fat to add flavor to that well-known delicacy “chopped liver.” The yellow jar of rendered chicken fat would stay in the refrigerator and be pulled out whenever she felt a preparation needed a flavoring that one could not get from butter or margarine.

Now, some oilmen from Missouri want to use the same kind of fat to help create biodiesel. My mother would have been amused.
Jerry Bagby and partner Harold Williams are building a biodiesel plant in Southwest Missouri –not far from a Tyson Foods poultry plant.
Currently, this chicken byproduct is shipped out to be used as a low-cost additive to pet foods, soap and other products. The biodiesel entrepreneurs see it as an untapped resource. They intend to mix it with soybean oil and product about three million gallons of biodiesel annually. Now, that’s a lot of chopped liver!

Right now, very little chicken fat is rendered into alternate fuel, but the cost of soy bean oil is rising and this nation is eating lots of processed chicken. Just last November, Tyson Foods announced it was establishing a renewable energy division. Competitors Perdue Farms and Smithfield Foods are expected to follow suit.

Analysts who study the biofuels industry are predicting that animal fats will account for as much as half of the biodiesel produced in this country within five years. The lure, of course, is cost. Chicken fat costs a third less than soy beans on a per pound basis. Companies like Tyson are finding the biodiesel field a welcome way to rid itself of a poultry- processing by-product.

Animal fats do have drawbacks particularly in that they thicken up in colder temperatures –as my mother knew when she stored the “grebin” in the fridge. But some companies are already investing in new technology that would process animal fat into a usable form as a fuel stock.

DAN SWEENEY’S NOTE: animal fats require approximately twice as much as alcohol to process as do vegetable oils—in other words, 20% by volume as opposed to 10%. That results in higher production costs. Also note that animal fats are in very limited supply compared to plant oils, and, though regarded as wastes today, could be quickly bid up in price if they are seen as fuel feedstocks. Ultimately feedstocks that are far easier and cheaper to cultivate than either chickens or soybeans are going to be required if biodiesel is to be a mainstream fuel.

Chicken as feedstock

Other than using more methanol, how does the process differ????