Twin Rivers Technologies Blog


Renewable diesel trends & how it affects oleochemical raw materials

Posted by Nigel Kheng on Jun 8, 2020 8:50:00 AM

Covid-19 curve is starting to “flatten out”, as we all hope. States are opening back up but crude oil prices are still seeing historic low prices. Tallow availability remains uncertain despite President Donald Trump signing an executive order in April 28th, 2020 to keep meat processing plants open.  

That is a lot to digest. 

Key Characteristics of Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel

Figure 1: Key Characteristics of Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel

As recent as 2016, there’s been a shift in the focus on tallow fat utilization with the Renewable Diesel coming on line. The diagram above shows the key characteristic of biodiesel and renewable diesel. [1]

Just like any commodity, tallow prices have seen its fair share of cyclical swings within the $0.2/lb to $0.4/lb enclosure. When Diamond Green Diesel (Darjeeling & Valero JV) announced the expansion of their recently expanded Renewable Diesel Figure 2: Facts of the Biofuel numbersplant in Louisiana, most tallow users were starting to foresee a potential shortage in supply. This expansion of 400MM gallons/year production from 275 million gallons/year production would not be the only one. With Marathon Petroleum and World Energy Paramount coming online post 2020, the Renewable Diesel capacity would grow three (3) fold in the US[2], further threatening the supply of tallow, leading to experts predicting a surge in tallow prices.

Of course, things quickly turned in February when Covid-19 hit. The first US meat production plant closure was heard on March 31st due to Covid-19 affecting workers. Shortly after, Smithfield Foods closed theirs in South Dakota, catching the nations attention. Soon, Covid-19 affected thousands of workers in meatpacking plants across the country, forcing the executive order on the Defense Production Act of 1950. To date (May 15th), at least one meat packing plant and four processed food plants remain closed.[3]

On April 20th, a further shockwave was seen when WTI Oil futures plunged to its historic low, the first time it has ever fell below $0. This forced many biodiesel producers to scrap plans to run at capacity, let alone coming online. This led to the palm oil and gas oil spread (POGO) and the bean oil and gas oil spread (BOGO) being extremely high in the near term, deeming it unfeasible to operate the facilities. Word on the street is that biodiesel facilities continue to operate at minimum capacity, despite policy makers trying to continue to support the clean initiative. 

Covid-19 has certainly thrown industries a wave of uncertainty. Crude oil prices will eventually recover to a level that is feasible again for biodiesel, or rather, renewable diesel to operate. The LCFS credits program in California continues to significantly favor used cooking oil and tallow oil over soybean oil. The renewable industry is here to stay, and renewable diesel will drain the necessary feedstock once it goes full swing.

The dynamic of tallow prices going up hasn’t changed, just postponed.Figure 3: Analysis on Tallow historic prices

Figure 2: Analysis on Tallow historic prices


Disclosure: I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. TRT does not participate directly in any biofuel business. 

[1] 2012. [online] Available at:> [Accessed 24 May 2020].

[2] Kotrba, R., 2020. Biodiesel Magazine - The Latest News And Data About Biodiesel Production. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 May 2020].

[3]McCarthy, R. and Danley, S., 2020. Map: COVID-19 Meat Plant Closures. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 May 2020]. and Douglas, L., 2020. Mapping Covid-19 Outbreaks In The Food System | Food And Environment Reporting Network. [online] Food and Environment Reporting Network. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 May 2020].

Topics: Oleochemicals, tallow fatty acid, biodiesel