REG: From 30,000 gallons of biodiesel sold in 1996 to half a billion gallons today
As 2020 comes to a close, Renewable Energy Group Inc., North America’s largest biodiesel producer, is celebrating a quarter-century in soybean oil refinement and biodiesel production.
Back in 1995, the company from which REG would be formed several years later—West Central Cooperative—made its first investment in soybean oil refining in Ralston, Iowa, after recognizing that growing amounts of surplus soybean oil carried little to no value.
“The business leaders decided that regardless of the end disposition, refining the oil would be required to create value from the product,” REG told Biobased Diesel Daily. “The start of this refinement process enabled West Central to look more seriously at entering the refined oil market.”
In 1996, West Central built its first biodiesel plant in Ralston. It sold 30,000 gallons that year. Two years later, the company began marketing its biodiesel under the SoyPOWER brand.
In 2002, what REG describes as “the world’s largest” continuous-flow soy biodiesel plant began production in Ralston. One year later, West Central formed Renewable Energy Group LLC.
A nearly $1.2 million USDA grant was received in 2004 by West Central to investigate new biodiesel production technologies, in cooperation with Iowa State University.
Renewable Energy Group Inc. was formed in 2006 and $100 million in private equity was raised. According to REG, this was the largest investment in the biodiesel industry at the time. The company—and the biodiesel industry—took off like a rocket.
In 2008, REG introduced its REG-9000 brand and quality specifications. That same year, the company acquired a biodiesel plant in Houston, Texas.
While 2010 was a tough year for the U.S. biodiesel industry, REG found opportunity and acquired a number of production facilities and projects including two in Illinois (Danville and Seneca), one in Iowa (Newton), and in Clovis, New Mexico. It also acquired Tellurian Biodiesel and American BDF in 2010.
REG acquired its Albert Lea, Minnesota, biodiesel production plant in 2011.
One year later, the company went public and began trading on Nasdaq. REG hit $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 2012. It also acquired production facilities in Atlanta, Georgia, and New Boston, Texas. The company shut its New Boston plant down in 2019.
In 2013, REG acquired its Mason City, Iowa, biodiesel manufacturing facility.
In 2014, REG went international as it acquired a majority stake in the German biodiesel production company Petrotec AG. The company also acquired its renewable diesel facility in Geismar, Louisiana, that year, as well as LS9 and its Florida demo plant. REG sold its 1 billionth gallon of biobased diesel in 2014.
A year later, REG bought the 100 MMgy biodiesel plant in Grays Harbor, Washington.
The company reached $2 billion in annual revenue for the first time in 2016, and purchased its DeForest, Wisconsin, production facility.
In 2017, REG sold its 2 billionth gallon of biobased diesel. It also acquired full ownership of Petrotec, including two biorefineries and a feedstock collection and processing facility.
REG launched REG Ultra Clean Diesel in 2018, a proprietary blend of biodiesel and renewable diesel. In 2019, Cynthia “CJ” Warner joined the firm as president and CEO.
Last year, REG produced nearly a half a billion gallons of biobased diesel. Its products are sold in 45 states, five Canadian provinces and 10 countries—representing quite a growth path for a company that began under the umbrella of West Central, which sold 30,000 gallons of biodiesel in 1996.