Biofuels plant in Durant looking for new oil sources

By: Mystic Matthews Email
By: Mystic Matthews Email

DURANT, Okla. - The Durant Biodiesel plant, owned by Earth Biofuels, has seen some hard times since opening its doors in 2006. In the midst of the expensive industry downturn, the plant is still open, but is now looking at other ways to stay in business.

If you drive by the biodiesel plant in Durant, you won’t see much. The plant is not making biodiesel at this time, but that may soon change.

Plant manager Jimmy Stephens says this time last year, the Durant biodiesel plant was close to shutting down.

“We were in production last year. Now the good news is we survived, where most companies in Oklahoma and the surrounding states have not because of high price of soy bean oil," Stephens said.

Stephens says in 2007, the price of soy bean oil soared above five dollars a gallon, making it impossible to turn a profit. So, production stopped last year.

Since then, plant officials say they have been researching ways to get the plant producing again and make money in the process.

“Used restaurant grease is less than half the cost of soy bean oil, but we have to find a way to refine it, and run it through this plant. So that's what we are doing right now is experimenting ways to refine used restaurant oil," says Stephens.

It comes a whole lot cheaper but there's just one problem, says Stephens. “The plant was originally designed to run soy bean oil and now we have to adapt the plant to run used restaurant grease, fish oil and other alternative feed stocks.”

Biodiesel is being produced in the U.S., just not in Durant. But there's a gas station right in Calera that carries it. We spoke to Ceslo Lopez, a truck driver from bells, who says he uses biodiesel because it keeps our air cleaner. "I'm proud to use it. I'm using it whenever I have the chance."

E-Z mart employee Woody Burkhalter says he's happy the store offers the option. “It's a little more friendly on the environment saves on oil production.”

Back at Earth Biofuels, Stephens says, despite a rough year, he hopes his plant can soon start production again. "Biodiesel is better for the atmosphere and emissions and every gallon we can produce is a gallon less of foreign oil we have to buy."

Something Stephens says he can believe in. “For once in my life I have a job that I can make a difference. I still can, I just have to find a cost effective, profitable way to run this plant."

Earth Biofuels is a company based in Dallas. Corporate officials there say they've fought to keep the Durant facility open, and they're moving toward producing the earth-friendly diesel again by new methods.

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