Valero JV lets contract for Norco plant

Nov. 16, 2020

Diamond Green Diesel Holdings LLC (DGD)—a 50-50 joint venture of Valero Energy Corp. and Darling Ingredients Inc.—has let a contract to Honeywell UOP LLC to license process technology for a second production unit that will more than double annual production at its 275-million gal/year renewable diesel plant in Norco, La. (OGJ Online, Apr. 14, 2020).

UOP will license and implement its proprietary Ecofining technology for a 30,000-b/d renewable diesel production train at the site, the service provider said on Nov. 2.

Following startup of the second production unit in 2021, DGD’s Norco plant will be equipped to produce 675 million gal/year (about 44,000 b/d) of renewable diesel.

This latest contract to Honeywell UOP follows DGD’s earlier award to the service provider for installation in 2013 of the Norco plant’s first 10,000-b/d Ecofining unit, which was expanded to 18,000-b/d in 2017, UOP said.

DGD’s Norco plant converts inedible oils and other waste feedstocks into Honeywell Green Diesel, a diesel fuel that—chemically identical to petroleum-based diesel—can be used as a drop-in replacement in diesel-powered vehicles with no engine modifications, and features up to an 80% lifecycle reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with conventional petroleum-based diesel, according to UOP.

Project overview

In 2019, Valero and Darling Ingredients confirmed they would invest a combined $1.1 billion to expand DGD’s Norco plant—already North America’s largest renewable diesel plant—to make it the second-largest plant of its kind in the world.

Already under way, the 400-million gal/year expansion of the Norco renewable diesel refinery was to involve construction of a second renewable diesel plant and renewable naphtha finishing installation (Train 2) adjacent to the site’s existing Train 1 (OGJ, Oct. 5, 2020, p. 38).

Technology overview

Jointly developed by UOP and Italy’s Eni SPA, the Ecofining process converts natural oils, animal fats, and inedible oils—including jatropha and camelina—into renewable diesel products such as Honeywell Green Diesel, which is classified as a biomass-based diesel under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s federal renewable fuel standard program that requires a minimum volume of transportation fuels sold in the US to contain renewable fuel as means of reducing GHG emissions.

Ecofining works by deoxygenating and decarboxylating triglyceride and free fatty acid feedstocks, then saturating them with hydrogen to produce diesel-range hydrocarbon chains. The resulting diesel fuel—which performs well at cold or warm temperatures—has a higher cetane number (80) than biodiesel and petroleum-based diesel (40-60), making it a ready blendstock for cheaper, low-cetane diesel to meet transportation standards.

Ecofining technology also is able to produce Honeywell Green Jet Fuel, a renewable jet fuel that can be seamlessly blended up to a 50% blend with petroleum-based jet fuel without requiring any changes to aircraft technology and meeting all critical specifications for flight, according to UOP.