Saipol invests in additional biodiesel production, biomass boiler

By Ron Kotrba | November 03, 2015

During a press conference in late October at its Sète site in the South of France, Avril Group subsidiary Saipol announced two major industrial investments in the French biodiesel sector totaling 28.5 million euros.

The first investment of 13 million euros established a new biodiesel processing facility in Sète, where Diester Industrie was the first to open a commercial-scale biodiesel plant in 2006 using Axens’ Esterfip-H process to manufacture 160,000 tons of biodiesel per year (48 MMgy). In 2014, Diester Industrie and Saipol merged as part of a long-term restructuring plan.

With the addition of the new biodiesel production unit, Saipol’s complex in Sète is now capable of producing 280,000 tons (84 million gallons) per year of Diester-branded biodiesel and 28,000 tons of glycerin. Through the processing of 600,000 tons of rapeseed a year, Saipol’s oilseed crush and biodiesel production site in Sète will also produce 340,000 tons of rapeseed meal for the livestock industries.

The investment was “designed to refocus the activities of the site … on production of Diester biodiesel and rapeseed meal…,” Saipol stated in an Avril Group press release. “These investments have reaffirmed the commitment of Avril, and its subsidiary Saipol, to Languedoc-Roussillon and the Mediterranean region, and their intention to develop the production of Diester biodiesel and rapeseed meal at the Sète plant. A declaration of faith in the future of the French biodiesel sector, in a currently unfavorable regulatory and market context.”

The second investment of 15.5 million euros included 4.2 million euros from a government grant under the “Biomass Heating for Industry, Agriculture and Services” call for projects (Biomasse Chaleur Industrie Agriculture Tertiaire, BCIAT) issued in 2012, the company stated. The investment paid for installation of a biomass boiler fueled by sunflower seed shells from its hulling plant at Bassens nearly 300 miles west of Sète. The sunflower hulls will be used to produce steam in Sète to process rapeseed into oil, meal, biodiesel and glycerin. Work on the boiler began in 2014 and was completed last month.

The company says this new investment will enable a 90 percent reduction in the site’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, and a 75 percent reduction in its requirements for energy, which is now generated using renewable resources.

“Through these investments, we wish to reaffirm our regional roots and our trust in the future of a French biodiesel sector at the cutting edge of renewable energies in Europe,” said Jean-Philippe Puig, manager of SCA Avril. “At a time when the sector is emerging from a restructuring, which led to the closure of several industrial units, and in a French and European regulatory context that is less than favorable towards us, it is essential to preserve an activity that represents 20,000 jobs in France. That is the ideal that underlies our commitment to Sète.”

Yves Delaine, deputy CEO of the Avril Group and chairman of Saipol, said, “Thanks to the unstinting efforts of the Site Director and his teams, Sète can now play a central role in the long-term future and reputation of this French sector. Refocusing and up-scaling the activities of this site will allow us to prepare for a future in which we believe, despite a growing number of competitors in the Mediterranean region who are making use of external agricultural resources. This constitutes a real threat, which is becoming a concern to both our site and farmers in the region.”