DEQ issues permit for Calumet’s renewable energy project

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has issued a decision on the air quality permit and final environmental assessment for the proposed renewable diesel plant at the existing Calumet refinery property.

The permit is for Montana Renewables Inc. and the analysis included the potential emissions from all equipment that will be operated at the renewable diesel plant to ensure the facility complies with the Clean Air Act of Montana, according to DEQ.

The proposed project would have a production capacity of about 15,000 barrels of biodiesel daily, according a release from DEQ.

DEQ also conducted an environmental assessment in compliance with the Montana Environmental Policy Act.

Calumet adds jobs for conversion to renewable diesel

The draft permit and the assessment were published for public comment on Sept. 22. DEQ only received comments from MRI and determined that the project meets state requirements.

The permit will become final on Oct. 26, unless the Board of Environmental Quality receives an appeal within the 15-day appeal period.

Calumet planning transition to renewable diesel operations

“The proposed project requires an air quality permit because the projected emissions exceed 25 tons per year for regulated pollutants including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. The analysis of the proposed project shows that the project would not violate ambient air quality standards. Once issued, the permit would require MRI to comply with the enforceable permit conditions for the equipment and take reasonable precautions for fugitive emissions, which are emissions that cannot reasonably be captured by a control system. MRI would have to demonstrate compliance with emission limitations for the heaters used in the production process through source testing, continuous emissions monitoring and recordkeeping,” according to DEQ.

The proposed project is located on private land. According to the applicant, construction is estimated to begin in the Fall of 2021 and the project would be completed by the end of 2022, according to DEQ.

In August, Calumet opened 12 full-time positions at the refinery for the project.

“These new positions are tangible signs of growth as a result of an in-progress energy transition project at the plant that is converting a portion of the facility to renewable feedstock processing. In the first half of next year, the renewable manufacturing business will be processing soybean oil feedstock into renewable diesel fuels. This will result in immediate carbon reductions and provide opportunities to involve Montana farm and ranch operators in the supply of renewable feedstocks to the facility,” according to a Calumet release.

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

Calumet planning transition to renewable diesel operations

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.