NWAnews. The Eastman Chemical Co. plant near Batesville, Arkansas has begun producing biodiesel from soybean oil, the first facility in Arkansas to do so. By the end of this year, the company plans to also use recycled vegetable-based cooking oil as a feedstock.
The Eastman Chemical plant has a current capacity of 3 million gallons annually. Eastman plans to double that by the end of the year.
Biodiesel fuel is currently available in 15 Arkansas counties, most in the eastern part of the state, according to the Arkansas Farm Bureau. The plant should improve local availability.
Soybeans are Arkansas’ No. 1 row crop in terms of acreage. The state’s farmers harvested 3 million acres of soybeans this year, which are expected to yield 102 million bushels. Arkansas has two soybean crushing facilities.
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Richard Bell said Arkansas has been late in coming to biofuels, in part because soybean export markets have been so readily accessible through the Mississippi River system. But with $60 per barrel petroleum a reality, the biodiesel equation has changed dramatically, Bell said.
“The whole process has captured the imagination of the growers,” he said.
Several other Arkansas biodiesel production facilities are under consideration.
The Arkansas unit of Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical produces specialty chemicals and chemical intermediates used in detergents, pharmaceuticals, food additives, paints and coatings, fibers and herbicides.