Analysis: Biodiesel Could Solve Ethanol Blend Wall

John Davis

epa-logoA new analysis shows that biodiesel might be the solution for ethanol “blend wall” concern and its impact on the overall number of advanced biofuels being blended. There’s been a lot of talk about the issue of the ethanol “blend wall,” the point at which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates for that renewable fuel are greater than the amount of ethanol able to be blended into regular gasoline. Right now, the most widely accepted “safe” level of ethanol mix for most vehicles is 10 percent, with a debate raging around the ability to go all the way up to 15 percent without modifications of current vehicles or the vehicles being flex-fuel capable. In this analysis posted on Reuters, the author points out that even with the higher blend limit, there will still be a gap between the time all the infrastructure is in place and the higher blends could be the norm. In the meantime, he suggests that biodiesel could help meet the EPA numbers by being a substitute for some of the ethanol products and cites precedent for such a move.

EPA has already used its authority to cut the cellulosic ethanol mandate (because of under-supply) and increase biodiesel, while keeping the overall advanced biofuel target unchanged.

That has directly substituted biodiesel for ethanol.

This year EPA cut the cellulosic target to 14 million gallons from 1 billion gallons as required in the 2007 act, and increased biodiesel to 1.28 billion gallons, also from 1 billion.

The U.S. National Biodiesel Board estimates record output of more than 1.2 billion gallons this year, roughly half of which will be made from soyoil with the rest a mix of recycled cooking oil, animal fats and other products.

EPA talked up the ability of the U.S. biodiesel industry to take an increasing role, in its ruling last year setting the biodiesel target.

“We believe that it is appropriate that biomass-based diesel play an increasing role in supplying advanced biofuels to the market between 2012 and 2022,” it said. (“2013 Biomass-Based Diesel Renewable Fuel Volume; Final Rule”)

The article goes on to point out that the biodiesel industry is capable of ramping up production if more of the green fuel is needed. Current expanded targets for biodiesel production represent just 2.9 percent of the total diesel picture, and since all diesel vehicles can take at least a 5 percent blend (and many experts will point out that blend is much easily higher), there’s no danger of biodiesel hitting a similar blend wall in the near future.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, News