US speciality refining company Vertex Energy has officially opened its new renewable diesel unit in Saraland, Alabama, NBC News reported.

Vertex would process soyabeans at the plant to produce renewable diesel, the 29 April report said.

Previously operated by global oil giant Shell, the plant was taken over by Vertex more than a year ago, with the company working towards adding renewable diesel to its activities there.

In the first phase of production, Vertex could produce up to 8,000 barrels/day (bpd) of renewable diesel, increasing to 14,000 bpd in a planned second phase, Vertex Energy Mobile Site general manager Wes Mock was quoted as saying.

Although most of the renewable diesel produced initially would be purchased by drivers in California, where incentives were in place to encourage its use, Mock said the plant could potentially help farmers in Alabama if the soyabeans were purchased in the state.

“This is a newer industry utilising soyabeans for the production of diesel fuel. So, we’re ramping up a lot of the aspects about our supply structure for our feedstocks… there’ll be a lot more to come in terms of how we get as much locally-sourced [soyabeans] as possible,” Mock added.

Vertex is a speciality refiner of alternative feedstocks and marketer of petroleum products, according to the company’s website.