Biodiesel Production Record Set in Iowa

Iowa-RFA-logo-new1Already the nation’s leader in biodiesel production, production of the green fuel in Iowa hit record levels in 2015. This news release from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says despite policy uncertainty for nearly all of 2015, Iowa biodiesel production set a new annual record of 242 million gallons, topping 2013’s record of 230 million gallons.

“It must be said that Iowa’s record biodiesel production in 2015 is a testament to the efficiency of Iowa’s plants and to the effectiveness of Iowa’s state level policies promoting the production and use of biodiesel,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Considering neither the federal Renewable Fuel Standard nor the federal biodiesel blenders’ tax credit were in effect for the vast majority of 2015, the resiliency of Iowa biodiesel producers really shone through in 2015. With the federal RFS and tax credit in place for 2016, we are hopeful for big things.”

The amount of Iowa biodiesel produced from soybean oil decreased in 2015, but remains the largest feedstock in Iowa, accounting for 66 percent of production. Animal fats held steady at 19 percent of biodiesel feedstocks. With changes to some biodiesel plants’ technology, distillers’ corn oil made a big jump to 10 percent of production, up from just 2 percent last year. Used cooking oil and canola oil accounted for the remaining 5 percent.

IRFA says Iowa has 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually.

Arkema Addresses Corrosion in Biodiesel Process

arkemaOne of the issues for biodiesel producers is corrosion of equipment by chemicals used in the production process. Pennsylvania-based chemical company Arkema has developed a low corrosion version of Methane Sulfonic Acid (MSA LC) that will turn free fatty acids into quality biodiesel without using the acids that damage the biodiesel production equipment.

“MSA LC provides excellent corrosion control while maintaining high conversion to and yields of quality biodiesel,” said Vijay Srinivas, principal research scientist in Arkema’s North American thiochemicals business unit. “Its use reduces plugging by salts downstream in the process and reduces catalyst loss compared to sulfuric acid. In addition, using MSA LC significantly reduces the amount of base catalyst required for the subsequent trans-esterification step, which allows the acid recovered in the aqueous phase after esterification to be reused elsewhere in the process, resulting in overall cost savings,” Srinivas noted. “The biodiesel produced using MSA LC has less metal content and less sulfur,” he added.

Benefits of MSA LC include better color and clarity of the resulting biodiesel as well as the flexibility to use diverse feedstocks with FFA content from very low concentrations to high concentrations. Use of MSA LC can also help eliminate or reduce waste treatment because MSA LC salts are completely biodegradable with low COD.

MSA LC is fully compatible with standard stainless steels AISI 304, AISI 316, and the low carbon or Ti stabilized versions. Using the MSA LC grade in a biodiesel unit can significantly reduce the risk of corrosion in pipes, reactors, separators, and purification units.

Overall, MSA LC is a very versatile acid that provides strong acidity, high solubility of alkali metal salts, biodegradability and, for esterification processes, high selectivity of the reaction. It is most often delivered, transported and used as a 70 percent aqueous solution.

If you’d like to find out more, you can visit Arkema’s booth (#128) at the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo on Jan. 25-28, 2016, at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

Virent Biojet Fuel Confirmed to Reduce Emissions

virentBiojet fuel from Virent has passed emissions testing by the government and a major jet engine maker. This news release from the company says its jet fuels containing Virent’s BioForm® Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) fuel blend produced a greater than 50 percent reduction in particulate matter emissions compared to conventional jet fuel, according to testing by Rolls-Royce and supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The testing verified the potential for the SAK fuel to reduce the adverse environmental impact and health effects resulting from jet fuel combustion.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency within the United Nations, is leading international policy making efforts to control particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions.

Virent’s SAK fuel can reduce both particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions without compromising engine performance, and when fully commercialized will support the growth of the aviation industry while addressing anticipated ICAO regulations.

Virent was chosen to participate in the initial Rolls-Royce Laboratory Test program, and was then selected by Rolls-Royce to proceed to the more advanced Rig Testing portion of the program.

Virent’s SAK fuel blend met all test requirements and the report concluded that the fuel “…offers the potential to be [a] drop-in fuel and hence achieve approval for use for the aviation industry”.

Virent’s renewable SAK fuel is produced in its pilot demonstration plant in Madison, Wisconsin.

Biodiesel RIN Defrauder Gets 20 Years in Prison

scalesofjustice1In a clear message that the integrity of the biodiesel incentive system will be upheld, the Justice Department has sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for his part in defrauding the government to the tune of $55 million. This article from The Hill says Joseph Furando participated in a process over several years to buy and resell biodiesel, claiming both the federal tax credit for it and the valuable renewable identification numbers (RINs) that fuel refiners use to certify that they complied with blending requirements.

“Fraud in the renewable fuels program compromises our ability to fight climate change and reduce dependence on foreign oil,” Cynthia Giles, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement division, said in a statement.

“When people approach these programs with bad faith and seek to exploit them, these purposes are blocked, American businesses are hurt and the treasury of the United States is depleted,” said John Cruden, head of the Justice Department’s environmental office. “This significant prison sentence sends the right message that such fraud will not be tolerated.”

Officials say Furando used the money to buy a Ferrari and other high-end cars, a million-dollar home, expensive artwork, a piano and other items, all of which he’ll have to forfeit. He also had a biodiesel-powered motorcycle built by the show American Chopper, which he will have to forfeit.

Furando was sentenced in an Indiana court.

Renewable Diesel Approved for Mack Trucks

macktruckMack Trucks says renewable diesel is cleared for use in all Mack engines. This article from Today’s Trucking says the decision comes following “extensive truck and engine testing” by the company.

“As the availability and customer requests for renewable diesel fuel increase, we worked to ensure its compatibility with our engines,” said Stu Russoli, Mack highway and powertrain products marketing manager. “This approval gives Mack customers who seek to reduce their environmental footprint an additional choice when it comes to alternative fuels.”

Renewable diesel fuel delivers performance similar to diesel refined from petroleum, but with several additional customer benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas and particulate emissions, as well as decreased maintenance costs, according to Mack.

Similar to conventional biodiesel, renewable diesel fuel is derived from biomass feedstocks, including animal fats and oils. However, unlike biodiesel, renewable diesel fuel is produced using a different process and maintains physical properties and performance similar to petroleum diesel, meeting the same ASTM D975 standard.

Mack says renewable diesel fuel offers several environmental benefits to customers, including reducing particulate matter. A life cycle analysis of renewable diesel fuel conducted by the California Air Resources Board also demonstrated reductions in greenhouse gases by 15 to 80 percent, depending on feedstock source used. Also, customers can also save money with renewable diesel fuel, as it requires fewer maintenance costs compared to other alternative fuels.

Biodiesel Smart Enough to Take on a Harvard Winter

nBBWhile we’re in the midst of winter’s icy grip, the folks at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) remind us how the green fuel can take on the coldest, snowiest winters. They point to last winter in Boston, when the city received nearly 10 FEET of snow, and Harvard University’s biodiesel-powered fleet didn’t miss a beat.

David E. Harris Jr., Harvard’s Director Transit and Fleet Management, reports they had no problems even on the most frigid days. “After the snowiest and coldest winter since we started using biodiesel 11 years ago, we were up and running providing transit service and keeping campus operations running smoothly,” Harris said. “Biodiesel is the fuel that helped us do that.”

Harvard uses approximately 2,000 gallons of B20 per week, for a total of more than 100,000 gallons a year. Their diesel fleet includes about 75 service vehicles – such as shuttle buses, solid waste and recycling trucks, mail delivery vehicles and more – and about 25 pieces of off-road maintenance equipment.

Harris, who shares his biodiesel know-how as a volunteer Biodiesel Ambassador, adds that the precautions he takes with biodiesel in cold weather are good practice with regular diesel fuel as well. He emphasizes that ensuring good quality fuel is priority one.

NBB adds that biodiesel can gel in very cold temperatures, and there are some things you need to keep in mind when using biodiesel in cold climates:

• Use high-quality fuel that meets the ASTM spec purchased from a reputable supplier.
• Be sure to discuss fuel options with your supplier to ensure that both the diesel fuel and biodiesel are blended only after meeting their respective specifications.
• Develop a good fuel management plan, in partnership with your supplier, that includes additization (just like for regular diesel) to improve cold weather operability.
• Test fuel periodically to verify its cold weather properties.
• Make sure you understand your fuel’s cold flow characteristics and have appropriate fuel handling and storage plans in place.
• Remain diligent on your tank maintenance program to help ensure fuel cleanliness.

Biodiesel Board Hires Franco as General Counsel

nBBWashington attorney Sandra Franco is the new general counsel at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). This news release from the group says Franco comes to NBB from the the environmental group at the international law firm Morgan Lewis, where she specialized in the Clean Air Act and natural resources law, and has long worked with the renewable fuels industry, including NBB, on a variety of legal matters. She is one of the nation’s foremost legal experts with respect to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“There isn’t an attorney in the country who knows renewable fuels law better than Sandra Franco, and we are thrilled to have her join our team,” said NBB CEO Joe Jobe.

Franco has participated in litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, as well as other federal district courts and courts of appeal. For NBB, Sandra worked on regulatory proceedings affecting the biodiesel industry and led her firm’s team on litigation over the RFS, successfully defending full implementation of the program.

“Sandra is a tremendously skilled and seasoned attorney who will help us ensure that the U.S. biodiesel industry has a strong voice and expert counsel in Washington as well as on legal and regulatory issues across the country,” Jobe added.

Biodiesel Giant REG Says ‘No’ to Crude Oil at Port

REGBiodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group (REG) doesn’t want to ship crude oil through its new port and plant in Washington state. This article from the Seattle Times says the Iowa-based company is leaving crude oil out of its plans for the mammoth Grays Harbor biodiesel plant REG bought last summer from Imperium Renewables.

The document was filed in late November, as comment on a draft environmental impact statement. A REG spokesman on Wednesday confirmed the decision.

Imperium’s original bid to ship crude came amidst a tough market for the renewable fuels that had originally inspired the facility’s construction in 2007. The biofuel frenzy was soon overwhelmed by the financial crisis, and later sidelined by growing production of domestic oil in the U.S. interior.

A significant amount of that crude, produced in North Dakota, has been finding its way to the Pacific Northwest, carried by train.

It’s used by refineries here, but Pacific Northwest ports are also an ideal spot to ship the crude to refineries in Alaska and California — or even abroad, now that the U.S. has reauthorized domestic crude exports for the first time since the 1970s.Imperium sought to jump on that bandwagon before it was sold.

“We are pleased that REG has listened to the people and made this decision. Now we need to continue our fight to convince the other proponents that it is time to follow this lead and abandon their risky projects to bring crude oil to Grays Harbor,” said R.D. Grunbaum, a member of the Stand Up To Oil campaign and Citizens for Clean Harbor, in a press statement.

Tale of ’93 Bronco Shows How to Go Biodiesel

ezradyer1Most of the time, we talk about the big stories of biodiesel: government policies toward the green fuel, infrastructure improvements, a plant opening. But this piece from Car and Driver points out how important some of the little stories of biodiesel also are. Ezra Dyer recalls his quest to convert his 1993 Ford Bronco to run on biodiesel.

Perhaps sustainability and emissions weren’t my priorities at the outset, but running a 7.3 in an open-top vehicle makes you intimately familiar with that engine’s major shortcoming: It’s a foul thing, a 444-cubic-inch industrial zone. One day, sitting at red light in a Mazda, my three-year-old in the back seat declares, “I smell a Bronco!” Sure enough, there’s a ’90s Power Stroke pickup on the opposite side of the intersection. Time to find some carbon-cutting, sweet-smelling biodiesel.

I go to the Department of ­Energy’s alternative-fuel website and discover an outfit called Piedmont Biofuels, a North Carolina biodiesel co-op with seven pumps around the Raleigh area. I send an email to Piedmont’s president, Lyle Estill, and a few days later I’m on the scene, Eddie Bauer ready for biopower.

The co-op’s members are a motley crowd, politically heterogeneous. As Estill writes in his book Backyard Biodiesel, “Some of Piedmont’s members are far-right-winged survivalist nuts who want to pay for their fuel in constitution silver,” while others are “hippie chicks who want to trade fuel for massages.” That’s such a weirdly specific example that I wonder if someone named Moonshadow actually rolled up to a pump and asked to get the rate in gallons per shiatsu.

I guess I’m somewhere in the middle, just a guy with a Bronco trying to save the world. Trouble is, there aren’t enough fryolators on earth to satisfy our collective demand for transportation fuel. That’s okay. Even so, once I’m fueled up on biodiesel, I plan to get real judgy. Oh, you’re going to the gas station? Why not just strangle a pelican with one hand and an Angolan peasant with the other, you monster?

Dyer goes on to tell how, with the first tank of biodiesel, his Bronco went from smelling like an industrial zone to more like a “grease fire at Arby’s,” a big improvement in his eyes. He also believes the Bronco runs quieter and makes more power running on the green fuel. A small story, perhaps, but its big success is being repeated around the country.

Kolmar Buys GreenFuels’ Biodiesel Plant

Kolmar Group AG has purchased a Connecticut biodiesel plant – Greenleaf Biofuels LLC – located in New Haven, Connecticut. The plant has been renamed American Greenfuels, LLC. With capacity of about 15 million gallons, it is relatively small for the 2-billion gallon U.S. biodiesel market but is the largest biodiesel plant in New England.

Kolmar logoAccording to Mr. Raf Aviner, President of Kolmar Americas, Inc., “This is a very important acquisition for Kolmar. It is the first such acquisition in the company’s history, and it shows the deep commitment Kolmar has to Connecticut, the environment, the biodiesel industry in general, and to the employees at the plant, in particular. Kolmar has had a strategic relationship with the biodiesel plant for several years, and bringing this facility and its employees into the Kolmar family is a good development for all stakeholders.”

The acquisition gives room for Kolmar to be a more significant biodiesel player even as an increasing number of producers sell their fuel directly.

The biodiesel industry has a few large players like Renewable Energy Group Inc (REGI.O) and is otherwise fairly fragmented.

Kolmar, a major importer of the biofuel, previously had a tolling arrangement with the Connecticut plant. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.