Iowa State to Run Buses on Waste Grease

As a graduate of Iowa State University (ISU), I couldn’t pass up this story. Several students are launching a project to recycle used vegetable oil from campus cafeterias into biodiesel. The fuel will then power campus buses, known as CyRide.

One of the drivers of this project is Bernardo de Campo, a co-chair of the organization Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, an organization that creates a virtual network for young scientists to work together and with the biodiesel industry. Students from various fields have collaborated to install a processor that will turn the waste grease into biodiesel. They have already produced their first batch and are now involved in a 3 week field trial to ensure they can meet the ASTM D6751 biodiesel spec.

Once the BioBus club has achieved this goal, they will start producing and donating the biodiesel to the university who will use the fuel to power one bus with a B20 blend. From there, ISU plans on expanding the B20 blend to additional buses.

Another cool element of the project? It was featured in a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report.

I know what CyRide bus I’ll be riding when I got back to ISU this fall for a football game….

Biomass Industry Execs Discuss Future

biomass conferenceAll energy of the bio variety – biomass, biogas, biodiesel and biofuels – were represented at the 4th International Biomass Conference and Expo on Monday during a panel featuring executives of seven different industry organizations.

Moderator Tom Bryan, Vice President of BBI International, asked the panel was what the top priorities for their organizations are this year.

“Just getting parity for algae,” said Algal Biomass Organization Executive Director Mary Rosenthal. She says they are also working on educating lawmakers about algae and keeping the funding they currently have for development from departments of energy, agriculture and defense.

Charlie Niebling with the Biomass Thermal Energy Council said they would like to see thermal incorporated into a true federal Clean Energy Standard. “We still face real challenges in just making sure people understand the role that thermal plays in addressing energy challenges in our country,” he said.

Biomass Power Association CEO Robert Cleaves says they support the development of a federal Clean Energy Standard as well and they want to retain the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). “BCAP for existing facilities may be the only game in town as a bridge to somewhere,” he said.

Inclusion and parity are also important for biogas, as well as working on a fundamental change in waste management. “Discontinuing policies that simply take all this organic matter, put it in a hole in the ground and create environmental issues. Instead we need to create policies to divert that to higher, better and multiple uses.” said Norma McDonald of the American Biogas Council.

For members of the Renewable Fuels Association, president Bob Dinneen says what is most important is education and certainty. “We’re looking at a situation where our tax incentive expires the end of this year,” Dinneen said. “What we’re trying to do is get to some reform of the existing incentive that reflects the fact that the industry has indeed grown, that will allow the industry to continue to grow and evolve, but do so in response to fiscal realities in Washington DC now.”

“The biodiesel industry is an example of what can happen when you have total policy failures in Washington DC,” said Joe Jobe with the National Biodiesel Board, referring to the non-renewal of the biodiesel tax for a year that caused many plants to shut down. Jobe says the industry is going strong again and plants are re-opening but they would like to see the tax credit extended again at the end of this year. “We just need a little more time to get a little more mature.”

Finally, Advanced Biofuels Association president Michael McAdams stressed the importance of keeping the Renewable Fuels Standard in place. “The RFS2 is the single most important public policy in the United States for first, second and third generations biofuels,” he said.

Listen the panel talk about priorities here: Biomass Conference Panel

Biomass Conference Kicks Off in St. Louis

The International Biomass Conference is being held this week at the America’s Center in St. Louis.

Domestic Fuel will be there Tuesday morning for the plenary session that starts with a keynote address from Dr. Richard Newell, Administrator, U.S. Energy Information Administration, who recently testified during a Senate Ag Committee Hearing on high gas prices and the role agriculture may play in developing energy sources for America.

That will be followed by an industry roundtable: Our Industry in a Changed Political Landscape. The panel will include Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen, National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe, Algal Biomass Organization Executive Director Mary Rosenthal, Advanced Biofuels Association president Michael McAdams, Charlie Niebling with the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Biomass Power Association CEO Robert Cleaves and Norma McDonald of the American Biogas Council.

Questions for the panel can be submitted via email.

NBB: For Earth Day, Biodiesel Friendly Destinations

As we sit on the eve of Earth Day (Friday, April 22, 2011), our friends at the National Biodiesel Board have pointed out several tourist destinations that are friendly to the environment by using the green fuel biodiesel:

“Green tourism is more popular than ever, and biodiesel’s ease-of-use and greenhouse gas reductions have made it a big part of that movement,” said Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board CEO.

Here are a few of the tourist destinations where you can find biodiesel running behind the scenes:

* Orlando, Fla.: This family vacation hotspot has many choices for biodiesel-supported tourism, from the Jaws Ride at Universal Studios to the LYNX city transit system, which uses 20 percent biodiesel (B20) in all of its diesel buses. The Orlando area is also home to the next National Biodiesel Conference & Expo, Feb. 5 – 8!

* Central Park: The New York City Parks & Recreation Department is leading a green revolution in the Big Apple. The agency maintains more than 29,000 acres in New York City, including such well-known venues as Central Park, Battery Park, Flushing Meadows, Coney Island and more. Since 2006, the Parks Department’s diesel fleet has run on B20. The Parks Department also uses B20 for 95 percent of heating oil sites.

Continue reading

NBB Protests EU Extension of Tariffs on US Biodiesel

European Union members have voted to extend current tariffs on U.S. biodiesel, and that violates the group’s own laws, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

This Reuters article posted on says EU officials accuse U.S. exporters of smuggling biodiesel through Canada to avoid tariffs imposed since 2009:

“We think this would be a bad decision that runs directly counter to current EU law,” said Manning Feraci, vice president of federal affairs at the U.S. National Biodiesel Board, the country’s leading biodiesel industry group.

“We’re waiting to get final confirmation of the decision and will go from there.”

The fight over EU biodiesel duties, which sliced U.S. exports to less than a third of their 1.5 million tonne level when they launched in 2009, highlights the global race for a share of the world’s booming renewable energy market.

EU firms accuse U.S. producers of being involved in a “splash and dash” scheme, whereby they may import cheap biodiesel from countries such as Brazil and add less than 5 percent of U.S. diesel. The producers then qualify for a subsidy from Washington before exporting it to Europe.

The extension would start in May and last until 2014.

Petroleum, not Biodiesel, Confirmed as Problem with Bioheat

As I reported to you back on March 17th, it looks like a bad batch of petroleum, not the biodiesel, was the real culprit with some recent problems with bioheat (a mix of biodiesel and home heating oil) in the Northeastern United States.

This blog post from Biodiesel Magazine says testing has confirmed the petroleum’s role:

Paul Nazzaro, petroleum liaison to the National Biodiesel Board, shared with Biodiesel Magazine an excerpt from a detailed report prepared by members of the Bioheat Technical Steering Committee as it pertains to the New Hampshire fuel quality concerns expressed by regional fuel dealers. He said a more comprehensive report will be provided to industry leaders within the week.

“At a recent meeting of fuel dealers in New Hampshire, requests for fuel samples and burner nozzles or combustion parts with carbonaceous deposits were made, and several of these were obtained and sent to independent labs for analysis,” the excerpt stated. “The data generated indicate poor quality base heating oil is the likely root cause of the burner issues in New Hampshire, and that the presence of biodiesel as Bioheat was not likely a contributing factor to the problems. Base fuel instability is the likely cause. Fuel sampled from a delivery truck clearly indicates this. Equipment problems are ruled out. Problems occurred with all domestic burners and with all appliance types. Biodiesel is ruled out. There were no indicators of off-spec biodiesel, and problems occurred regardless of fossil-renewable carbon content.”

Nice to see that biodiesel was cleared. Now lets see if the retractions accusing the green fuel of the wrongdoing come as quickly as the charges against it.

Enzymatic Process Touted for Biodiesel Production

A Texas-based company claims its enzymatic process for turning waste grease into clean-burning biodiesel will save money and can be used on existing biodiesel plants.

Biodiesel Experts International LLC
of Pearland, near Houston, calls its process “revolutionary” and is offering to provide engineering, onsite supervision, startup, training, enzyme material, and complete plants:

The enzymatic process consist of two (2) different types of enzyme, one for tranesterification and one for esterification. Feed stocks with 0-100 FFA can be processed at an operating temperature of ONLY 85 F and minimal methanol required. There is no caustics required and no soap formation. The byproducts produced are high quality glycerin and water. This enzymatic process can also be used only for FFA reduction with proved results to reduce FFA levels to less than 1 from any level of FFA with an operating temperature of ONLY 85 F. The methanol requirement is less than 15% by weight for FFA reduction.

We checked with the National Biodiesel Board about this outfit and its claims, and while the NBB “does not investigate, evaluate, or recommend biodiesel production techniques or equipment,” it does say the technology could prove to be a promising innovation to make biodiesel production more economical:

“The use of enzymes for biodiesel production is one such innovation that holds promise. In fact, there were two presentations on enzymatic biodiesel production at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo this year. As with any biodiesel process technology, be it new or old, it is absolutely critical the reaction go completely to the mono-alkyl ester (i.e. biodiesel) and that the resulting product meets or exceeds all the parameters in ASTM D6751.”

Oregon Becomes 2nd State with 5% Biodiesel Mandate

Oregon has become the 2nd state in the nation to have a 5 percent biodiesel requirement.

The state joins Minnesota in requiring the B5 mix and gained the praise of the National Biodiesel Board:

“Policymakers in Oregon should be congratulated for displaying national leadership on clean energy issues,” said Shelby Neal, NBB regulatory affairs director. “As a result of the biodiesel policy, Oregon’s citizens will enjoy cleaner air, green jobs, and a higher level of energy independence.”

The state has already had a 2 percent biodiesel (B2) requirement in effect. Oregon’s B5 requirement was scheduled to be triggered when the in-state production capacity reached 15 million gallons annually, which the biodiesel plants recently accomplished. The requirement will generate about 25 million gallons of biodiesel demand annually.

“Increasing the use of domestically produced, low carbon fuels like biodiesel is a win-win for Oregon,” said Rick Wallace, a senior policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Energy, and the Clean Cities Coordinator of the Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities Coalition. “We’re supporting the local economy while reducing pollution, rather than relying entirely on fossil fuels to power our state.”

The state already had a B2 requirement, along with Washington and Pennsylvania. Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts and New Mexico also have biodiesel mandates that haven’t kicked in yet.

Biodiesel Board Backs Obama’s Backing of Biofuels

The National Biodiesel Board has joined the chorus of biofuel groups applauding President Obama’s call for boosting the production of domestic fuels:

“The biodiesel industry is already poised for a record year in which we will displace nearly a billion gallons of petroleum with a renewable fuel produced right here in the United States,” said Manning Feraci, NBB’s Vice President of Federal Affairs. “We are ready and able to meet the nation’s Advanced Biofuel goals and in the process create new jobs, improve the environment and enhance the nation’s energy security.”

As Cindy and Joanna reported earlier, other groups, including the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and the Advanced Ethanol Council, have given their support to Obama’s Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future that outlines a comprehensive national energy policy.

“Over the next two years, we’ll help entrepreneurs break ground on four next-generation biorefineries – each with a capacity of more than 20 million gallons per year. And going forward, we should look for ways to reform biofuels incentives to make sure they meet today’s challenges and save taxpayers money,” Obama said.

NBB points out that biodiesel is America’s first advanced biofuel.

Happy National Biodiesel Day!

Since today is the anniversary of the the birth of the first proponent of biodiesel, it is also National Biodiesel Day.

It was on March 18, 1858 Rudolf Diesel was born. As a proponent of using peanut oil in his diesel engine invention, Herr Diesel also became the first backer of biodiesel, thus today being recognized as National Biodiesel Day. This from the National Biodiesel Board:

The first compression ignition engine that Rudolph Diesel displayed at the 1900 World’s Fair ran on peanut oil and he designed it with a variety of fuels in mind. In a 1912 speech Diesel said, “the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.”

“The biodiesel industry has grown to be as diverse as the diesel engine itself,” said Don Scott, Director of Sustainability for the National Biodiesel Board. “From the raw materials used to make it, to the engines it is burned in, biodiesel is one of the most diverse alternative fuels on the planet.”

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning, advanced biofuel made from readily available renewable resources such as soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, animal fat and even used cooking oil. The engines biodiesel is used in include semi-trucks, tractors, heavy construction equipment, boats, school buses, city transit buses, military equipment, diesel pickup trucks, passenger vehicles, home heating burners, electrical generators and almost every other diesel engine in the marketplace.

Biodiesel Helps Make Livestock Feed More Affordable

While there have been some in the livestock industry that have had some real heartburn with biofuels, a new report shows that biodiesel has actually made animal feed more affordable.

The National Biodiesel Board has released a new study that shows how soybean oil and meal economics favor the livestock industry, potentially saving farmers and ranchers $4.8 billion from 2005 through 2009:

The basic rule of thumb is when demand for soybean oil increases, the price of the other soybean component (soybean meal) decreases, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded study by CENTREC Consulting Group, LLC. Increasing demand for soybean oil benefits livestock feeders through lower meal prices.

Illinois farmer and former economics and statistics professor Pat Dumoulin has seen biodiesel’s benefits from every side of the equation. She and her family raise corn and soybeans as well as run a 2,100 sow operation.

“No matter whether you are feeding pigs or people, biodiesel is helping meet the world’s growing demand for protein,” Dumoulin said. “With these economics, we would all win if the trucks that brought our soybean meal ran on America’s advanced biofuel, biodiesel.”

The NBB says this new study complements a January 2010 United Soybean Board report that showed how much biodiesel supports the soybean industry.

GROWMARK To Help Grow Biodiesel Use In Illinois

GROWMARK, based in Bloomington, Illinois has a long history with selling renewable fuels. The company began marketing ethanol back in the late 1970s. Today, they are a major player in Illinois in selling high quality biodiesel. I had the chance to sit down with Mark Dehner, the company’s marketing manager of refined and renewable fuels during the National Biodiesel Board Conference. Although ethanol is a big part of their business, we focused on how biodiesel has helped to grow their business.

Dehner said that the company sells a performance blend of diesel fuel called Dieselex Gold that helps improve fuel efficiency and protects the fuel while in the hands of GROWMARK’s customers. From there, GROWMARK adds various biodiesel blends to that fuel, whether it be B2, B5, B11, which is typical in Illinois, or B20.

Illinois has been very progressive when it comes to the use of biodiesel. The state has a sales tax motor fuels between 6 1/4 percent up to 7 1/2 percent. However, the state passed a waiver that if you use a blend of biodiesel of B10 or higher, effectively B11, there is no sales tax. This becomes very cost effective for the user.

When factoring in this state incentive, the state biodiesel mandate, along with other state biodiesel mandates, the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) and the blenders tax credit, Dehner sees good growth for their business this year and in years to come. Yet he said that to ensure this happens, there still needs to be some consumer education. In his experience, he’s found that when you have a chance to speak one-on-one with a customer or potential customer to address misperceptions and perceived issues about the fuel, you are usually able to clear them up and get them on board with using the fuel. But ultimately, as with any product, the fuel must be handled properly and used correctly.

GROWMARK is a huge supporter of renewable fuels and they believe that when a consumer understands the benefits they will be for the same reasons: its homegrown, its good for the environment; and it reduces our dependence on foreign oil. That’s why the company will continue to sell renewable fuels – because it the right thing to do.

You can listen to my full interview with Mark here: Interview with Mark Dehner

2011 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

National Biodiesel Foundation Silent Auction Raises $50K

Biodiesel outreach, education, research and demonstration activities have gotten a big boost as the National Biodiesel Foundation‘s 3rd Annual Silent Auction netted nearly $50,000 during last week’s National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Phoenix.

The Foundation is also recognizing Cima Green Energy Services for a very generous $25,000 donation at the opening of the auction:

Executive Director of the National Biodiesel Foundation (NBF) Tom Verry was pleased with the auction results. “The generosity of both donors and bidders this year shows the level of commitment and optimism of the future of the biodiesel industry,” said Verry. “We are thrilled to see the auction grow each year. With donations like those from Cima Green Energy Services and our other donors, we are now able to contribute significantly toward industry goals.”

Funds raised by the 2011 Silent Auction will support Foundation goals and activities for the coming year such as Biodiesel Sustainability Awareness. This program includes vital research contributing to the fuel’s long-term sustainability, such as lifecycle analysis, land use analysis, and water usage. Other programs it supports include Bioheat Education and Infrastructure Development. The Bioheat market alone represents potentially seven million biodiesel gallons annually. Infrastructure Development is another program supported by the NBF. This program includes jet aircraft testing, installing 150 biodiesel terminals nationwide and environmental certifications.

To make a donation or for more information about the National Biodiesel Foundation, check out its website:

The “One-Stop” Shop Biodiesel Plant

With the explosive growth expected in the biodiesel industry this year, many investors are looking to update their technologies as they bring their biodiesel plants online. Those looking for a “one-stop shop” for an entire biodiesel plant should look at two seemingly unlikely partners: McGyan Biodiesel and Biodiesel Analytical Solutions (BAS).

There is much talk in the biodiesel industry that the days of the single feedstock producer are nearing an end. The new emerging technology – multiple feedstock technologies. One such technology is the McGyan technology, a multi-feedstock technology that was first proven out in Ever Cat Fuels, a biodiesel producer located in Isanti, Minn. The plant went online in November of 2009 and was one of only two biodiesel plants that stayed in production last year.

So what is unique about this technology? David Wendorf, Director of Marketing for McGyan said that they use a transferication process. This allows them to use a wide variety of feedstocks ranging from 0 percent FFAs to 100 percent FFAs. The advantage is that the plant can always use the most cost-effective feedstocks. In addition, their technology uses no harsh chemicals, no water, produces no waste products and is scalable. And since it can use a full range of FFAs, it hasn’t meet an oil-based feedstock that it doesn’t like.

Another option with the McGyan technology is that you can add it to an ethanol plant that has corn oil extraction technology. Wendorf explained that you can use the corn oil to create biodiesel and the process also uses ethanol. In addition, you can actually create biodiesel from the excess ethanol if there is a situation where the market has too much ethanol and not enough demand. Wendorf explained that this would be another revenue stream for an ethanol plant, using the corn oil as a hedge – if the price of corn oil does go up, you can simply substitute other low cost feedstocks.

So what’s the tie with BAS? Continue reading

Biodiesel Poised to Have an Explosive Year

The mood was optimistic during Advance: 2011 Biodiesel Conference & Expo last week. Why? Because all signs are pointing to the industry growing by leaps and bounds this year. I spoke with Donald Nelson, Director, National Sales with REG (Renewable Energy Group), the largest biodiesel company in the U.S. about RINS and how, if at all, they can signal positive things in the marketplace.

To begin, I asked Nelson to explain what a RIN was. It’s a Renewable Identification Number (RIN). “To make it simple,” said Nelson, “RINS really is the currency of the RFS2. That’s how the EPA measures the compliance of an obligated party.” He continued by explaining that for each gallon of biodiesel produced, 1.5 RINs are generated that travel with that gallon to the blender and then the blender or obligated party separate that RIN from the “wet gallon” and at this point, the RIN can travel separately from the fuel.

Last year was a tough year for the biodiesel industry. The $1 per gallon tax credit had expired and several obligated parties sued the EPA over the RFS2 biodiesel mandate numbers (under the RFS2 biodiesel qualifies as biomass based diesel). Fortunately, by the end of the year, the EPA won the suit and the credit came back, but by this time there weren’t enough RINS in the marketplace to meet demand to the uncertainty caused by the aforementioned issues.

Nelson said there were 1.15 billion gallons of material that needed to be consumed when you add 2009 and 2010 together but it appears that the marketplace will be short 95 million gallons. Yet he’s not worried and is very confident that the industry can not only make up for the shortfall this year, but also meet the RFS2 numbers. Combined this will be a total of approximately 925 million gallons of biodiesel needed to be produced this year. To put it in perspective, last year the industry produced 310 million gallons. Nelson said this is a 300 percent increase in production but there are 2.2 billion gallons of biodiesel production registered with the EPA, although much of it is not online.

So what’s next for the industry? Explosive growth. Plants are coming back online although Nelson said some still need additional investment dollars to get back up and running. In addition, the obligated parties are creating plans to build out the much needed infrastructure so the fuel can get where it needs to go.

Nelson concluded that he thinks the industry is going to see tremendous growth over the next couple of years and “It’s very exciting.”

You can listen to my full interview with Don here: Interview with REG's Donald Nelson

2011 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album