FS Propane Autogas Demos in Illinois and Wisconsin

fs-propaneGROWMARK and local FS member companies in Illinois and Wisconsin are hosting five events this week to share information about Propane Autogas as an alternative to petroleum and compressed natural gas (CNG) fuels.

“There’s quite a few sectors, such as schools, municipalities, buses, and fleets, that are starting to convert their fleets to Propane Autogas,” explains GROWMARK propane marketing and business development manager Scott Long. He says while it’s been around for years, the cleaner-burning, economical features, including saving up to 40 percent above what petroleum-based products cost, are really making big impressions on the fleets. “The city of Springfield, Ill. is running bifuel (able to take both propane and regular gasoline), they converted 24 vehicles to propane this past year, and they’re saving about $82,000 per vehicle.”

The tour kicks off today, making stops today in Carbondale, Ill., in Springfield, Ill. and Bloomington, Ill. tomorrow (Tuesday), Wednesday in Madison, Wisc., and finishing up in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc. on Thursday. In addition to industry representatives, the events will have propane powered buses, service trucks, and vehicles on display. Attendees will have an opportunity to participate in demonstrations of the vehicles. Local FS dealers have more information on where and when to be to see the demonstrations.

Scott goes on to say that with the environmental benefits of 12 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions, a 20 percent drop in nitrogen oxide emissions, and 60 percent fewer carbon monoxide emissions than traditional petroleum-based fuels, using Propane Autogas makes sense for big cities and rural areas.

“The benefits, not just from the economic savings are there, but also from an environmental side, too.”

Listen to more of the interview with Scott here: Interview with Scott Long, GROWMARK

GROWMARK Terminal Gets Biodiesel Certification

BQ9000GROWMARK‘s Menard Terminal, near Petersburg, Ill., is being recognized for its quality biodiesel. The company received BQ-9000 certification by the National Biodiesel Accreditation Committee.

The National Biodiesel Accreditation Program, called BQ-9000, is a cooperative and voluntary program for the accreditation of producers and marketers of biodiesel fuel. The program’s criteria for certification combine the ASTM standard for biodiesel, ASTM D6751, with a quality systems program that includes storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices.

The facility features include heated storage, insulated piping, filtration and a pulse blending system. Biodiesel offered at Menard is 100% soy-based and meets all of the requirements of the industry standard, ASTM D6751, and the more stringent GROWMARK Quality Assurance Program. Blends in 2%, 5%, 11% and 20% for both clear and dyed diesel fuel are available. Dieselex Gold and SURE-FLO IV are also available for blending at the rack.

GROWMARK bought the Menard Terminal facility five years ago. It has storage capacity of more than 10 million gallons for gasoline, diesel fuel, ethanol and biodiesel, with the ability to custom blend biodiesel.

AgFanatics Talk Ethanol & RINs

agfanaticsA podcast we’ve talked about on our sister website, AgWired.com is the AgFanaticsAgriVisor Account Manager Cory Winstead and AgriVisor Risk Management Specialist Nick Klump, who talk ag issues on a regular basis. No surprise that ethanol and Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) made it onto their radar, as it is a topic pretty important in ag circles.

In this episode of the AgFanatics podcast, the guys try to bring a little more knowledge to the the discussion of about of ethanol production and blending. Recently, they talked to Tim Abel, GROWMARKS Refined Fuels Supply and Trading Manager to clear up some of the issues on the topic.

Check ‘em out!

Ft. Dodge Terminal Great for GROWMARK Energy

GROWMARK has made several changes since purchasing the Fort Dodge Fuel Terminal in Duncombe, Iowa two years ago – and the cooperative company continues to grow the facility which was originally built more than 40 years ago.

“GROWMARK has made a lot of improvements to get a good quality system where customers can depend on it to come and get fuel 24 hours a day,” said terminal manager Bill Fandel, who has been at the facility for nearly 40 years himself. “We’ve been in a constant state of construction.” Capacity has increased to over nine million gallons for fuel oil and about 3.5 million gallons for gasoline.

GROWMARK also added 76,000 gallon storage capacity for ethanol and 30,000 gallons for biodiesel. “We’re blessed with about eight ethanol plants in a 40 mile radius,” Fandel said, and at least two biodiesel plants within 40 miles. “It is all soy, no animal fat,” he added.

Listen to my interview with Bill here: Bill Fandel, Ft. Dodge Terminal

Demand for both ethanol and biodiesel are good at the Fort Dodge Terminal. “The majority of the gas going out of here has ethanol in it and a lot of our member companies are using the bio,” said Fandel. Customers select their blend at the terminal for both ethanol and diesel.

Facility operations manager Greg Eckhart says the Fort Dodge facility has been a great investment for GROWMARK. “It was a great asset sitting right in the middle of our territory already, it was a terminal we did use before and we saw potential and growth,” said Eckhart, who added that they have nearly doubled volume in two years.

Adding ethanol and biodiesel was good for them. “We’ve increased the gas loading here tremendously because of that,” Eckhart said.

Listen to my interview with Greg here: Greg Eckhart, GROWMARK

Celebrating National Co-op Month

Each October, cooperatives across the United States celebrate the contributions of cooperatives to their communities during National Co-op Month and this year continues the celebration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives with the slogan “Cooperative enterprises build a better world.”

As one of the nation’s largest cooperatives, GROWMARK has been celebrating all year long, so we talked with president and chairman of the board Dan Kelley about why co-ops are so important for agriculture, both nationally and globally. Kelley says he was surprised to learn this year that nearly a billion people around the world are members of some type of cooperative. In addition to celebrating a year and a month dedicated to cooperatives, Dan says GROWMARK has been celebrating 85 years of existence as a cooperative.

The largest division of GROWMARK is the energy division which offers a complete line of refined and renewable fuels, lubricants, additives and propane to residential, commercial and industrial consumers in northwestern Iowa and beyond.

GROWMARK‘s core cooperative membership is in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, but in recent years have expanded into other states including Colorado, Pennsylvania and Maryland and a solid membership in Canada as well.

Listen to an interview with Dan Kelley here: GROWMARK President Dan Kelley

Biofuels Help Boost Co-op Income

USDA celebrated October National Cooperative Month and the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives with the release today of the top agricultural cooperatives and their revenues for 2011.

According to the release, farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted record sales last year of $213 billion and $5.4 billion in net income, surpassing the previous record sales year of 2008 by $10 billion while besting the old income record by $500 million.

“These new cooperative sales and income records for 2011 underscore the strength and productivity of the nation’s farmer- and rancher-owned cooperatives, and the vital role they play in the nation’s economy,” said Dallas Tonsager, under secretary for Rural Development. “Primarily because of mergers, the number of farm co-ops continued to decline, but memberships and asset values are up.” Tonsager also noted that co-op employment levels remained strong, with cooperatives employing 184,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal workers, up slightly from 2010.

CHS Inc. of Saint Paul, Minn – an energy, farm supply, grain and food co-op – was once again the nation’s largest ag co-op, with $36.9 billion in revenue in 2011, up by a whopping 50% from 2010. Part of the CHS cooperative portfolio is CHS Renewable Fuels Marketing, a leading ethanol marketer, and that part of the business helped the co-op boost revenues in 2011. The fourth ranked agricultural cooperative, GROWMARK, also markets biofuels under its energy division.

While not included under the list of agricultural cooperatives, Tonsager notes that “many of the ethanol plants across the country, or biofuels projects, either are cooperatives or cooperative-like institutions, where they are limited liability companies that have a democratic vote.”

Listen to or download Tonsager’s remarks here: USDA Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager

STAR Energy Keeping Fuel Tanks Cleaner

A dirty tank can make even the best of fuel less than optimum, which is why GROWMARK STAR energy was demonstrating a high efficiency fuel tank cleaning process at the 2012 Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.

Curt Snyder with STAR Energy demonstrated the cleaner, which can run in any size tank from 500-1000 gallons. “It has a pressurized nozzle that sprays throughout the tank, scours it inside. Meanwhile, in the back, it’s sucking up the fuel and running it through our filtering system to take out all the impurities,” he explained. “We’re able to get down to even the smallest pieces of sand.”

Snyder says it’s good to go into harvest season with a clean tank. “It’s very important that we don’t get any grit from an old tank into your fuel system,” he said, noting that growers at the Farm Progress Show showed a lot of interest in the tank cleaning process that many did not even know existed. He said that more information is available from STAR Energy in Iowa or any FS fuel delivery service.

Watch Curt demo the tank cleaner in this video:

STAR Energy Powers Farm Progress Show

The star of the recent Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa was the fuel that kept all the engines running – and that was supplied by STAR Energy, a retail division of GROWMARK that covers northwest Iowa.

“What’s unique with us is we’re an all energy company,” STAR Energy representative Jason Stauffer said. “We solely stay focused on the energy products of propane, diesel fuel, lubricants and the retail service stations.”

Acquired by GROWMARK in 2007, STAR Energy offers a complete line of refined and renewable fuels, lubricants, additives and propane to residential, commercial and industrial consumers and operates more than 20 retail fuel locations.

STAR Energy is also the official fuel supplier for the Farm Progress Show in Iowa, which Stauffer says is a big job. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it,” he said. “There’s a lot of generation units, the shuttles that run people up and down the roads and the field demonstrations where we’re running our flagship GROWMARK product, Dieselex Gold.

It was the first time for the Farm Progress Show to get the new Dieselex Gold reformulation just introduced in February. “These guys put a lot of time, effort, money and resources into these shows. The last thing they want is to go out there and do field demonstrations in front of thousands of people and have the equipment not perform to the standards they want,” said Stauffer. “We know the Dieselex Gold package is the best fuel to power and protect that diesel engine.”

Listen to an interview with Jason here: Jason Stauffer interview

GROWMARK Picks Up 1st Truckload of Biodiesel at Ohio Terminal

GROWMARK’s network fuel supplier Trupointe Cooperative Inc. picked up the first truckload of biodiesel at the new New Lebanon Ohio Terminal owned by the Renewable Energy Group (REG). The facility is located outside of Cincinnati. The facility is producing REG-9000 branded biodiesel produced from natural oils, fats and greases and meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications for biodiesel.

“GROWMARK and Trupointe Cooperative Inc. have been advocates for biodiesel utilization for many years,” said Gary Haer, VP of Sales and Marketing at. We look forward to growing our relationship with GROWMARK and its other cooperatives in the future. This Ohio terminal offers great opportunity for blenders like GROWMARK and Trupointe to expand their biodiesel offerings in preparation for harvest or to meet summer over-the-road diesel demand.”

Brigette Harlan, Renewable Fuels Product Manager for GROWMARK said they are pleased to take the first truckload of biodiesel from the new facility, and REG has been a valuable partner for many years. “REG is dedicated to quality and to the best possible customer experience which is very important to our customers like Trupointe Cooperative who are receiving this truckload. We appreciate and share that commitment as we all grow and help the marketplace understand the benefits of using biodiesel.”

Farmers Look to GROWMARK for Reliable Fuel, Stable Prices

It was originally started as a way for a group of farmers to make sure they were able to get a reliable source of fuel. Today, our friends at GROWMARK Energy are helping producers make sure they have those quality fuels at prices that remain stable throughout the seasons. Marty Wieland, GROWMARK director of energy operations and risk management, explains that since they are also putting product into the pipeline that has to match the standards already there “that allows us to buy that product from any other vendor or shipper on the pipeline and know that it’s going to meet certain specifications so we really know what we’re getting.” Plus, he says they can put in their own additives at certain terminals specific for the needs of that area.

Wieland says their analysis, advisory and broker services give GROWMARK cooperatives a chance to lock in fuel prices as much as a year in advance. “It allows them to know what their pricing will be well out in the future,” and allows them to pass along these stable prices to the end-users.

Wieland concluded they’re looking at expanding into other pipelines where they don’t currently have a presence.

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Marty here. Marty Wieland, GROWMARK

GROWMARK Celebrating History Built on Energy

GROWMARK has two reasons to celebrate this year – the International Year of the Cooperative and GROWMARK’s 85th anniversary.

“The cooperative obviously has evolved a lot over those 85 years,” says Dan Kelley, Illinois farmer and president of the GROWMARK Board of Directors. “Energy is still a main part of GROWMARK’s product distribution. Nearly half of our sales continue to be in the energy area – diesel fuel, soy diesel, ethanol and a variety of lubricants as well.”

The history of GROWMARK is charted from the time its predecessor Illinois Farm Supply was incorporated as a cooperative in 1927 to help farmers maintain an economical and reliable supply of fuel surfaced for the newfangled tractors that were rapidly replacing horses on farms.

Dan says they are pleased that the United Nations coincidentally chose this year as the International Year of the Cooperative. “We have adopted the logo of the International Year of the Cooperative logo,” he said, noting that the design illustrates the principle of cooperatives, showing how individuals working together can do what no one can do by themselves.

Listen to my interview with Dan Kelley here. GROWMARK President Dan Kelley

Importance of Fuel Quality Management

Maintaining the quality of fuel stored commercially or on the farm has a lot to do with making sure the storage equipment is keeping the fuel clean and dry.

That’s why GROWMARK’s energy division stresses good storage tank maintenance to farmers. “Engine manufacturers as far back as the 1930s said the number one thing to do with all fuel is to keep the fuel dry and clean,” said Ken Reichert, GROWMARK Refined and Renewable Fuels Sales Manager. “That’s even more true now and critically true for today’s engines.”

Reichert notes that today’s diesel engines in particular have fuel injection systems that utilize very tight tolerance on the injectors that are electronically controlled. “So they just can’t tolerate any foreign material, oxidized fuel or water, getting into the system,” he said.

GROWMARK has found that there are lots of on-farm and commercial storage tanks that are decades old, which can lead to contaminants that naturally occur over time, but Reichert says the increasing use of biodiesel blends does not require any type of special handling. “In general, biodiesel is the same of any other fuel as far as managing quality, protecting it from dirt and water,” he said.

Reichert says GROWMARK and the FS System recently introduced the latest formulation of their flagship fuel, Dieselex Gold, which deals with the tighter injection tolerances and updates the oxidation inhibitor, something that is especially important with biodiesel blends. “Biodiesel has a little less oxidative stability than regular diesel,” said Reichert. Dieselex Gold also has a demulsifier to help fuel shed out of water faster, which helps if water gets in a tank.

Listen to my interview with Ken Reichert here: Interview with Ken Reichert, GROWMARK

GROWMARK Studying E15 Retailer Handbook

As a leader in fuels produced by farmer cooperative members, GROWMARK is studying how to best implement 15% ethanol and upgrading its biodiesel quality program for marketing through the FS Brand system.

There are over 300 locally and independently operated FS FAST STOP and FAST STOP Express locations so GROWMARK Renewable Fuels Product Manager Brigette Harlan says they are carefully researching all the steps that need to be taken to offer E15 to guide them. “We’re working very closely with the Renewable Fuels Association in reviewing their E15 Retailer Handbook,” she explained. “We’re very supportive of this moving forward but we really want to ensure it’s done properly.”

Harlan says they recently updated their Biodiesel Quality Program, which has been in place since 2007. “It includes a specification that we require of all of our suppliers that’s tighter than the ASTM specifications, and also includes storage and handling and appropriate blending guidelines,” she said. “We just want to make sure that we are putting out there the best quality product that we can.”

GROWMARK FS Energy offers full truckloads of pure ethanol, various ethanol blends, pure biodiesel and blends with ultra sulfur diesel. “We try to offer whatever is needed by our customers,” said Harlan.

Listen to or download interview with Brigette Harlan here: GROWMARK Renewable Fuels Product Manager Brigette Harlan

Growing GROWMARK Energy Business

From premium diesel, gasoline and lubricants to propane, biodiesel and ethanol, the GROWMARK Energy Division continues to grow and offer high quality products to member cooperatives and the general public.

The annual volume for the cooperative system’s energy division exceeds 1.6 billion gallons of gasoline, distillates and propane, and about 80 percent of the gasoline marketed by GROWMARK and FS member companies contains 10 percent ethanol. According to GROWMARK Energy Marketing and Communications Manager Ron Durdle, they own two refined terminals in Menard, Illinois and Ft. Dodge, Iowa. “The Menard terminal continues to be a good asset for us,” Durdle said during a recent GROWMARK media tour. “Recently added biodiesel blending there and the load-out equipment is state of the art.” Menard has storage for 80,000 gallons of ethanol and 30,000 gallons of biodiesel.

The terminal just east of Ft. Dodge was purchased by GROWMARK in the fall of 2010. “We’re upgrading that, adding biofuels to it and upgrading the facility in general,” Durdle said. GROWMARK’s interest in biofuels extends to part ownership of Mid America Biofuels, a 30 million gallon biodiesel plant in Mexico, Missouri. “It is definitely a mainstream part of our business,” he added.

Propane is a rapidly growing segment of the GROWMARK energy business with the cooperative system now ranked as the sixth largest propane marketer in the country. “GROWMARK FS is in the propane business out of New York state,” Durdle said. “In the bulk of our trade territory, in the Midwest, propane is used for grain drying. But a more regular business is home heat so we’re kind of working our way east there.”

The GROWMARK Energy Division brands range from Dieselex Gold and Comfort Pro propane to United and Archer lubricants and Fast Stop stores. “That’s our retail brand,” Durdle said of Fast Stop. “Very nice opportunity for us to serve other markets than agriculture with our retail sites.”

Overall, Durdle says reaching out to additional geographies and markets adds volume to the overall system and provides a better return for FS cooperative members.

Listen to an interview with Ron Durdle here: Ron Durdle Interview