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Posted on  

November 25, 2003

Soy biodiesel may have growing role in business

It promises to play a large role in their future businesses, farmers and fuel distributors were told at meeting this week that focused on diesel fuel.

More specifically, speakers at the event focused on how what they call the growing use of soy biodiesel can have on farming operations and how it can become a part of the fuel distributing business.

The event was a meeting organized by Bill Ellers, agent with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Service, and held Tuesday at the Sampson County Livestock Facility on U.S. 421 south of Clinton.

Principal speakers were representatives from the National Biodiesel Board, the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association and the North Carolina Grain Growers Cooperative.

Sam Brake, president of the producers association, told the audience, "We're here to talk about a new use for soybean oil - and that's making diesel fuel from it." He added that his group's primary mission is to promote soybeans, and doesn't delve into the sales end of the business. But, he said, his group wants to support the efforts to make known what diesel made from soybean oil is all about.

But Tom Verry, director of outreach and development for the National Biodiesel Board, pulled no punches in promoting the use of soy biodiesel, praising its quality and efficiency.

Biodiesel, he said, is a domestic, renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils such as what is found in soybeans. He explained that biodiesel can be used in any blended concentration with petroleum.

A performance sheet distributed at the meeting states that lubrication is the most prominent benefit associated with soy biodiesel. It asserts that even a two percent soy biodiesel blend enhances lubricity significantly, and it does not give up fuel economy, power output or engine torques for this lubricity, since soy biodiesel is nearly identical to No. 2 diesel relative to these factors.

Verry explained that biodiesel has properties similar to petroleum diesel fuel and is designed for complete compatibility with petroleum diesel. Thus, soy biodiesel can be blended in any ratio with petroleum diesel from additive levels to 100 percent diesel. Biodiesel blends are referred to as Bxx, with the xx indicating the percentage of biodiesel.

Verry said the most common blend being used today is B20, a 20 percent blend of biodiesel.

As a rule of thumb, Verry said, each percentage point of blend adds about a penny to the cost. "In other words, add a penny per gallon per percent," Verry said.

Verry said that several federal agencies are using B20 and that more than 500 major fleets are using it. Fire trucks operated by the Berkeley (California) Fire Department are using biodiesel, he said.

"It's an old idea," said Verry, "but it's sort of been sitting around forever."

Biodiesel users in North Carolina include several agriculture-related entities the cities of Raleigh and Durham, RDU Airport, Progress Energy, Cherry Point Marine Base and Fort Bragg, Verry said, as well as the state Department of Transportation.

A huge benefit of using biodiesel, said Verry, is that it can be integrated into existing petroleum infrastructure and, he said, "You don't have to do anything to your engine."

Biodiesel, said Verry, is registered with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is compliance with the Clean Air Act and meets federal, state and public utility regulations, he added.

Biodiesel is energy-use friendly, said Verry, "For every unit of energy needed to produce biodiesel, 3.24 units of energy are gained." In addition, Verry added, there can be about an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study conducted by USDA and the Department of Energy.

As did Verry, Sam Lee, chief executive officer of the Grain Growers Cooperative, said that what is sorely needed in the state is a plant to manufacture biodiesel. There are none on the Eastern Seaboard, both said.

Currently, Lee said, biodiesel is shipped into North Carolina from a plant in Iowa. He noted that Potter Oil Co., based in Aurora, is the first biodiesel distributor in the state. It's service area includes Washington and Greenville.

"Our goal," Lee said, "is to expand distribution." Especially needed, he said, is distribution from Raleigh westward.

"We would like to encourage convenience stores to commit their diesel pumps to biodiesel," said Lee.

The largest goal, added Lee, is to build a biodiesel plant in N.C. He said his organization has received grants from the Golden Leaf Foundation and that it has promised to further invest in the soy biodiesel project.

The largest user in North Carolina, Lee said, is the state Department of Transportion.

Lee said his organization's mission includes supporting business opportunities and profitability for North Carolina farmers and rural communities.

Curtis Potter, owner of Potter Oil Co., told the audience that, to date, his company has sold biodiesel to about 50 different farmers. He said his fuel is brought in by rail and then transferred to a bulk tank at his operation.

"We have sold to several mechanics," added Potter. "Biodiesel is a good cleaner."

Verry remarked that there are several elements in the energy bill now before Congress that can impact biodiesel, including tax incentives.

 

 

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