Calumet planning transition to renewable diesel operations

Calumet Montana Refining is in the early stages of a $200 million project to convert portions of its facility for renewable diesel.

Ron Colwell, general manager at the Great Falls Calumet facility, discussed the project with Neighborhood Council 3 members during their June 10 meeting.

He said there’s a lot of cultural change in the industry toward greener fuels driven by federal regulations and low carbon fuel standards adopted in some states, primarily in the west.

Colwell said that Calumet is set up to be able to convert to renewable diesel since the company installed an oversized hydrocracker during its major expansion in 2016, making  the transition less costly at the Great Falls facility than at some others.

He said the company will repurpose the hyrdocracker and reduce production of other products, but will continue to operate and create a handful of new jobs at the Great Falls facility.

To make renewable diesel, the company will take in renewable feedstock, primarily soybean oil in this case and animal fats such as tallow.

Colwell said they’re looking at starting up next year and are in the preliminary engineering design state now and working with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for permitting. The company is looking to partner with an investor for the project.

The feedstock will be transported to the facility by rail from the midwest and possibly Alberta and Saskatchewan to start, but they’re hoping that eventually Montana producers will be set up to provide that volume of feedstock, Colwell said.

The project will also require constructing a new hydrogen plant and reconfiguring the tanks, he said.

The process will produce some off-gas, which is considered green and will be recycled into the hydrogen plant. To start, the feedstock coming in will be cleaned and deodorized but at some point, they’ll also install a pre-treatment unit and bring in more raw materials. That will have odor and Colwell said that they’re talking to experts about what odor controls will be needed and have leased 870 acres with a purchase option off Bootlegger Trail near ADF to potentially handle the treatment process further from the community.

Colwell said that the facility will be able to process used cooking oils but at a higher volume than is currently collected in the state. He said there’s a Montana company that collects the smaller batches of used cooking oils from other businesses and transports it to an out of state processing facility, but hopes that some entrepreneur will figure out how to collect those smaller batches on a larger scale to deliver it to Calumet, which would be able to process 10,000 barrels daily.