Nova CEO: Cheaper Biodiesel Feedstocks Key

John Davis

In a time when many biodiesel makers are having a tough time because of the high costs of their feedstocks, one is looking to expand its operations.

The CEO of Houston, Texas-based Nova Biosource Fuels, which has biodiesel refineries in Iowa, Mississippi and Illinois, Kenneth Hern say the key to his company’s success has been expanding its range of feedstocks to cheaper sources. In this article with the Houston Chronicle, Hern does some Q & A with reporter Brett Clanton, Hern says Nova is even looking to open another biodiesel refinery in the heart of petroleum country… right in Houston:

Q: We’re hearing a lot about how high crop and vegetable oil prices are pinching biofuels producers, even forcing some to close. What’s different about your business model?

A: Nova has a patented, proprietary process that lets us use any material that’s got a triglyceride or a fairly high amount of free fatty acids in it. If you take soy, it has almost no free fatty acid in it. It’s a pure triglyceride. Anyone can make biodiesel from it. It’s a very simple reaction. But when you want to use the feedstocks that are cheaper, almost every time those cheap feedstocks have some amount of free fatty acids.

Q: What are some examples of feedstocks you’re experimenting with?

A: You’ve got inedible tallow. Some it has low free fatty acid, and some it has high. So we’ll buy the higher containing free fatty acids in inedible tallow. We’ll buy choice white grease, which is from the swine, if we can get it.

And we’ll also buy it if it’s gone off spec, and the free fatty acid content is above 2 to 5 percent. In fact, Nova made some biodiesel about two weeks ago from rancid butter.

Nobody can use it but us. But it does make very good biodiesel. Basically, you’ve got fats, oils and greases. I call it FOG. Basically, the oil side, all of that in the U.S. is soy. In Europe, it’s rapeseed or canola oil or palm oil.

Hern believes that the future of biodiesel is pretty bright… maybe the brightest for all the biofuels. He points out that biodiesel runs just as well as petroleum diesel without having to make any conversion to the engine.