US: Perdue invests $60m in environmentally-friendly soybean facility

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Soybean meal Soybean

Perdue is opening a new steam generated soybean processing facility in Pennsylvania to address the local market needs.

Perdue AgriBuisness announced the opening of the new facility last week. It invested more than $60m to design and build the processing facility. It also received $8.75m in a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from Pennsylvania.

The new processing plant has opened the grain receiving side of the facility, but soybean processing is not set to be up to full speed until the start of 2018, said Adam Zel, plant manager for Perdue’s facility.

The company chose Bainbridge, Pennsylvania as the location due to the quantity of soybeans grown in the area, the amount of feed being generated there and also as it had a partnership with Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA).

The facility is expected to improve the “economic equation”​ for soybean producers who previously had to send their crop out of state for processing, Perdue said. It will be able to store 1.5m bushels and process up to 17.5m bushels annually.

Although a large percentage of soybeans leave the state to be processed, an amount of soybean meal returns to the area to become an animal feed ingredient, he said. “Basically the farmers on the soybean side and the feed producers, the meal users, were taking the hit on the freight,”​ he added.

Pennsylvania grows about 29.6m bushels of soybeans and uses about 44m bushels of soybean meal every year, the company reported. But about 10 to 12m bushels are processed there.

“It’s a great opportunity to be in the epicenter on where the soybeans were grown and the end needs were,”​ said Zel. “That’s why we were looking at this region.”

“When we’re fully operational, we’ll generate 450,000 to 500,000 tons of soybean meal and about 115,000 to 120,000 tons of soybean oil,”​ he added.

Focus on innovation

The facility’s location in Bainbridge, Pennsylvania has also allowed it to improve its environmental footprint by making use of a product produced by a neighboring facility, said Zel. Perdue’s plant is located next to an LCSWMA waste to energy (WTE) facility, which burns municipal waste to generate steam.

The incinerator uses steam to turn a turbine, he said. However, there is enough remaining at the end of the process to be useful in the soy processing facility.

“Knowing that our plant uses quite a bit of steam we [realized] that would be a good partnership,”​ he said.

Previously Perdue has partnered with companies that run boilers maintained by non-fossil-fuel-based sources to generate steam for some of its facilities, he added.

“We have a history, not so much with an existing neighbor, but with green-burning third party companies that are able to produce steam,”​ he said. “We were able to embark upon a similar journey in Pennsylvania, to find a site that was generating steam, it just so happened we were able to identify them as a group that burned trash.”

The agreement offered the chance of working with a “green partner”​ to generate the steam needed for the processing facility, he said. “They weren’t utilizing all the steam and we were able to utilize that – so we didn’t have to put in fossil fuel burning boilers,”​ he added.

The steam will be used in several parts of the production system including in the grain drying process and during the oil extraction process, he said. “There aren’t many grain dryers that utilize steam,” ​he added.

Additionally, the use of the WTE facility will mean there are no emissions generated by fuel combustion from the soybean facility, said Perdue.

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