Biodiesel Blows Up

No, not in a good way.

Poor biodiesel. Only a few years ago, it was the cutest thing among greenies to tool around in a vegetable-oil-powered Mercedes with exhaust smelling of French fries. Then other greenies started to realize that the fuel’s ingredients were being delivered from as far away as Malaysia, leaving a big trail of greenhouse gases, and that demand for the hot new crops was causing trees to be hacked down in the Amazon rain forest.

Interest in biofuels sank, a particular drag for one Seattle start-up called Imperium Renewables, which built a gigantic biofuel-production plant in Grays Harbor County. Earlier this year, the company laid off most of its staff at the plant—which turned out to be a good thing, because on Wed., Dec. 2, there was a massive explosion there.

A 10,000-gallon pressurized tank containing glycerin and sulfuric acid blew up, sending chunks at least a hundred feet and rupturing another nearby tank, according to a report from Grays Harbor County’s The Daily World. Nearby businesses were evacuated after sulfuric acid leaked out of the plant. No one was hurt, and needless to say, there was absolutely no cause for alarm.

The company explained: “As a result of the rupture, heated glycerin in the tank mixed with the cold air, creating a large vapor plume. The glycerin, a co-product of biodiesel production which is a dark, liquid, non-toxic substance that resembles molasses, was spread across the incident area, giving the appearance of charred material.”

So what might have appeared to be a fiery catastrophe was really more like a big, slathery Aunt Jemima party. Nonetheless, the facility has been shut down until further notice, and state officials from the Departments of Ecology and Labor & Industries are busy investigating.

Meanwhile, just a few miles east at the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, all remained eerily quiet.




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