INSIDE: BIODIESEL CONSULTANTS DISCUSS PLANT OPTIMIZATION March/April 2012
Catalyzing Biodiesel Growth
Sodium, Potassium Methoxide Still Reign Supreme as Industry Hits New Production Heights Page 24
Plus Process Heat Innovations Page 18
A Profile on Bioheat Pioneer Robert Cerio Page 30
MARCH/APRIL 2012 VOLUME 9 ISSUE 2
18 PROCESS HEAT
Innovation Heats Up
Catalyzing Biodiesel Growth
BY ERIN VOEGELE
BY BRYAN SIMS
BY LUKE GEIVER
Alternatives to boiler heat
Alkoxides are still king
Advertiser Index 2 2012 Algae Biomass Summit 39 2012 International Biomass Conference & Expo 26 Ag Solutions LLC 16 AOCS American Oil Chemists Society 28 BBI International Consulting Services 29 Crown Iron Works Company 22 Eco Engineers 11 Eide Bailly, LLP 23 FCStone, LLC 17 Flottweg Separation Technology 10 Frazier, Barnes & Associates, LLC 35 French Oil Mill Machinery Company 21 7 36 9 32 20 40 27 33
Gormun-Rupp Pumps Iowa Central Fuel Testing Lab Jatrodiesel, Inc. Lindquist & Vennum PLLP Nalco Company Oil-Dri Corporation of America Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, Inc. Sustainable Development Technology Canada Wilks Enterprise, Inc.
Bob Cerio’s Bioheat story
CONTRIBUTION 34 FUEL
Toptech Systems Releases Unified Automation Platform Fuel loading automation
BY JIM XANDER
DEPARTMENTS 4 Editor’s Note
BY RON KOTRBA 5 Legal Perspectives
Rise in Patents Provides Challenges, Prospects
BY JEFFREY PETERSON 6 Talking Point
What is Plant Optimization?
BY WAYNE LEE AND BRIAN MATTINGLY 7 Biodiesel Events 8 FrontEnd
Biodiesel News & Trends
12 Inside NBB 16 Business Briefs
Companies, Organizations & People in the News
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many familiar faces and hear the latest updates from my friends in the industry. What a football game, huh? The Patriots’ last-second effort didn’t pay off though, and the Giants took the game. It sounds like next year’s conference in Las Vegas will not include a Super Bowl party, a first since the event began nearly a decade ago. If you could not attend the show and want to get up to speed on the major talking points, check out my editorial coverage on pages 9 and 10. Also, check out the Inside NBB section in pages 12-15 to read the National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe’s take on the latest issues facing the industry, and to see conference photos, who won the Eye on Biodiesel awards, and more. Also, visit www. biodieselmagazine.com to read my direct reporting from the conference in Orlando. I hope to see you all in Las Vegas next year.
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Bryan Sims writes “Catalyzing Biodiesel Growth” on page 24, which takes a fresh, unique look at developments in conventional base and acid catalysis.
Erin Voegele authors “Innovation Heats Up” on page 18, a story about alternative approaches to process heat for biodiesel production facilities.
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Rise in Patents Provides Challenges, Prospects BY JEFFREY PETERSON
New biofuels processing innovations continue to be developed resulting in an explosion in patent activity in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as well as patent offices around the globe.
In proprietary technology focused solely on biodiesel processing alone, only a handful of patent applications were filed in 2002 as compared to 130 in 2008 and more than 230 in 2011. As the number of patent applications has gone up significantly, the number of issued patents has correspondingly increased. This grants the applicants rights to their new biofuels processing technologies. Given the administrative delay time involving obtaining patent protection (patent applications can often take three to five years before an issued patent is granted), the large growth in issued patents is just now being seen (e.g., from less than 20 biodiesel processing patents being issued in 2008 to more than 100 in 2011). This expected rise in patent rights of different biodiesel innovations should continue to grow as the large number of applications currently on file work their way through the USPTO. This growth in patent-protected biodiesel innovations presents new challenges and opportunities for biofuels innovators. One of the opportunities, of course, is participating in the patent process itself to obtain their own proprietary rights for their novel inventions. A granted patent in hand not only secures certain proprietary rights to the innovator but is an asset to attract and secure capital investment. Another strategic advantage provided by the biofuels patent boom is the unprecedented advantage of being able to monitor competitorâ€™s technological activity by analyzing the published records of the USPTO. Patent applications become public records after 18 months of their filing date, well in advance of the actual issuance of the patent itself. Upon publication of a patent application, any individual can read and analyze the detailed description of the invention itself in the specification of the patent application. Additionally, any individual can track and analyze all of the correspondence the patent applicant submits and receives from the USPTO. By analyzing the records of the patent office, biofuels companies can track the records of their competitors and read the detailed technological disclosures of any of their innovations for which they have filed patent protection.
An innovator can determine whether the patent applications of competitors are being rejected or challenged by the patent office. Such valuable insight assesses the true scope of proprietary rights that a competitor may or may not have, which cannot be gleaned by complimentary press releases. A company may manage its own intellectual property developments around its developed technology, and in analyzing the patent landscape of other proprietary rights in the field, a company can strategically find opportunities and barriers for technological growth. Analyzing the public patent records of the patent office also allows identification of potential partners having complementary technology, or in identifying a potential licensee whose technology would benefit from the licensed technology of the company. Along with the opportunities that come with the increase in patenting of new biofuels technology, patentprotected technologies also raise challenges, specifically increased patent litigation risk and freedom to operate issues. As more issued patents are making their way into the marketplace, patent litigation in the biofuels industry is also on the rise. For example, in the ethanol industry, enzyme giants Novozymes and Danisco recently duked it out in federal court over the alleged infringement by Danisco of Novozymesâ€™ patented enzymes for the production of ethanol. A jury awarded Novozymes more than $18.3 million in damages for this infringement. More recently, biofuels company Gevo filed a lawsuit against Butamax alleging patent infringement over Gevoâ€™s patents for the production of isobutanol. As patent applications continue to make it out of the patent office, additional biofuels litigation will be expected in the coming months and years and companies should take a more active role in monitoring the intellectual property landscape in their industry to avoid potential pitfalls, as well as to find potential opportunities. Moreover, even if a biofuels innovator is not directly involved in litigation, the need for freedom to operate investigations adds another challenge. The patent system encourages and rewards innovation. As the biofuels industry matures, there will be more and more patent-protected technologies. These patentprotected biofuel technologies result in shifting the landscape of opportunities and challenges for innovators. Author: Jeffrey Peterson Partner Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich firstname.lastname@example.org
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What is Plant Optimization? BY WAYNE LEE AND BRIAN MATTINGLY
Regardless of the industry, all production facilities strive to maximize revenues and minimize expenses. This effort often takes many forms—reducing overhead, boosting output and negotiating better contracts for raw materials— but the primary method for improving the bottom line will always be plant optimization. Plant optimization is a sound fiscal decision, and it is a key component of good operational management. The decision to pay strict attention to the measurements, controls and efficiencies necessary for optimization not only enhances the plant, but it quite often produces a safer operating facility. Plant optimization is when one maximizes a plant’s yield and efficiency. Maximizing a plant’s efficiency is a matter of understanding things such as the facility’s energy and labor use, and implementing those procedures that make the best use of them. Maximizing a plant’s yield is best defined by stating it in the alternative—minimizing waste. The goal here is to produce as much final product from as little raw material as possible. This involves evaluating the processes in place and taking the necessary steps to insure that the plant has the equipment that best uses its raw materials, and that this equipment is being used in the most efficient manner. Famed American management author and professor W. Edwards Deming, whose teachings shaped technology management in both the U.S. and Japan, once said, “You can’t control something that you don’t measure.” This has never been truer than in optimizing a plant. Both general and precise measurement of material flows and process parameters are essential. General measurements include flow rate, temperature and pressure. Process specific measurements will include items like product quality and reaction efficiency. Inventory levels, for example, may be measured by weighing trucks or railcars as they deliver raw materials or take away products, and bulk tank levels may be recorded regularly. This is useful in providing a daily, weekly and monthly picture of material flow in and out of a facility, and can be useful in tracking the plant’s long-term production efficiency, but it certainly does not provide any indication as to which unit operations are more or less efficient. For this, more detailed measurements would be required. In continuous processes, flow meters for liquids and weigh scales for solids continuously record the rate of material movement through a facility. For batch processes, flow meters and weigh scales with totalizers, or load cells 6
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for process tanks, record the charges and discharges of each batch. This type of information helps explain how materials flow through the plant, and combined with process monitoring for temperature and pressure, can make it possible to track the overall efficiency of different parts of a production facility. Once it is determined that adequate instrumentation is in place, the next step in plant optimization is to implement controls over specific processes—the goal being to minimize process variation and eliminate human error. Automated dosing of reagents into a reaction vessel, combined with precise control of process conditions and monitoring of reaction efficiency, all allow the operations staff to normalize the operation of the reactor and target the optimum set of conditions. Automated controls are especially important to unit operations that have a particular sensitivity to swings in process conditions. Examples include distillation columns, evaporators and gravity separation processes. Energy efficiency is another area that can drastically affect plant optimization. Utility costs represent a significant portion of the operational cost of a facility. These expenses can be reduced by making better use of the utilities available in a plant. An energy efficiency audit can include several questions. Are there sources of waste heat that can be used elsewhere in the process? Do waste streams contain trace quantities of finished product that could be recovered? Are boilers, thermal fluid heaters or other utilities operating within manufacturer specified ranges? Are there more cost-effective utility sources available (e.g., natural gas versus electricity for heat, cooling towers versus chillers for cooling)? Can the use of economizers improve the efficiency of fired boilers? Plant optimization is a necessary, ongoing process. It makes the difference in operating the facility at peak profitability. It is an endeavor that should be done by qualified professionals who are not involved in the daily operations of the plant. With very few exceptions, the cost of studying and optimizing are far outweighed by the results. I suspect that if queried, most facilities would likely believe themselves to be operating at peak efficiency. I also suspect that if audited, many would be incorrect, unable to see the forest for the trees. “It is not enough to do your best,” Deming further noted. “You must know what to do, and then do your best.” Authors: Wayne Lee, Brian Mattingly CEO, Lee Enterprises; Chemical Engineer, Agri-Process Innovations (501) 833-8511 Wlee52@lee-enterprises.com
EVENTS CALENDAR International Biomass Conference & Expo APRIL 16-19, 2012
Colorado Convention Center Denver, Colorado A New Era in Energy: The Future is Growing Organized by BBI International and coproduced by Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop—the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. (866) 746-8385 www.biomassconference.com
International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo JUNE 4-7, 2012
Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota Evolution Through Innovation Now in its 28th year, the FEW provides the ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. As the largest, longest running ethanol conference in the world, the FEW is renowned for its superb programming―powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. Early bird registration rates expire April 23. (866) 746-8385 www.fuelethanolworkshop.com
Algae Biomass Summit SEPTEMBER 24-27, 2012
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel Denver, Colorado Advancing Technologies and Markets Derived from Algae Organized by the Algal Biomass Organization and coproduced by BBI International, this event brings current and future producers of biobased products and energy together with algae crop growers, municipal leaders, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. Register today for the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all algae industries. (866) 746-8385 www.algaebiomasssummit.org
International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show NOVEMBER 27-29, 2012
Hilton Americas - Houston Houston, Texas Organized by BBI International and produced by Biorefining Magazine, the International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show brings together agricultural, forestry, waste, and petrochemical professionals to explore the value-added opportunities awaiting them and their organizations within the quickly maturing biorefining industry. Contact a knowledgeable account representative to reserve booth space now. (866) 746-8385 www.biorefiningconference.com
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Biodiesel News & Trends
PHOTO: BOB CRISP
ON-THE-JOB TRAINING: AIDB's E.H. Gentry Facility student Rodriques Wilson has learned how to process WVO into biodiesel and assists in WVO pick-up from regional businesses, establishing relationships with two restaurants on his own.
Fueling Education Loud and Clear
AIDB’s biodiesel program provides unparalleled work experience for its students Alabama native Helen Keller once said, “No one has the right to consume happiness without producing it.” The same could be said of biodiesel at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Ala. Thanks to extensive local, state and federal collaboration and funding when the idea was conceived in 2008, AIDB is now the first educational entity in the state of Alabama to implement a biodiesel public education, student training and production program. Since Project Green launched in October 2010 with the help of a $300,000 U.S. DOE congressional award driven by state representative Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the program has been a student-led public education vehicle that provides a valuable
hands-on approach for its students— students who happen to have visual, hearing and multiple disabilities—to be the teachers. The program's long-term goal is systemic change in attitude and knowledge about alternative fuel sources like biodiesel, essentially bridging the gap between alternative fuels research and market acceptance, says AIDB President Terry Graham. “We certainly thought this would be a great way for our students to learn more about the environment and to learn a lot about the academic kinds of things that can be associated with being in a biodiesel program, and also to give us an opportunity to educate others within the state,” Graham tells Biodiesel Magazine.
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Housed in AIDB’s E.H. Gentry Facility, Project Green has the capacity to produce 55 gallons of biodiesel per day out of a biodiesel processor supplied by California-based Springboard Biodiesel LLC to fuel a small number of AIDB school buses, maintenance trucks, lawn equipment and other state vehicles, according to Jessica Edmiston, AIDB’s public relations coordinator and assistant director for development. “AIDB students are involved in every facet of the biodiesel production process,” she says. “From the waste vegetable oil pick-up and the actual conversion to biodiesel to the public relations activities such as hosting tours.” Although an evaluative safety component wasn’t mandated within the DOE proposal, AIDB sought Frazier Barnes & Associates to provide technical assistance at no charge to AIDB to ensure that all safety and security measures were implemented, according to Ashley Player, chemical engineer at FBA. Notable proposed safety measures that were implemented by FBA include: clarification of operating procedures, implementation of caution and safety signage, and implementation of fire alarms systems for both deaf and blind, among others. “We wanted to make sure the students were safe,” Player emphasizes. While Project Green provides an educational environment to learn about every aspect of biodiesel production, Graham says the program ultimately creates an unmatched employment-based training mechanism for AIDB’s students eager to continue their skills and abilities outside the institution. “The most important thing for us, especially in this tough economy, is really about the jobs,” Graham says. “In the final analysis, our primary goal is to make certain that the people we serve end up being competitively employed. We’re really creating work experience opportunities, which are a major benefit of Project Green.” —Bryan Sims
National Conference Pinpoints Latest Industry Issues The National Biodiesel Conference & Expo took place Feb. 5-8 in Orlando, Fla., where the industry’s latest challenges were laid out: defending the renewable fuel standard (RFS2); restoring integrity in the renewable identification number (RIN) credit markets after instances of fraud in the system designed by U.S. EPA to enforce RFS2 compliance were exposed late last year; and convincing EPA to stand by its original proposal to increase the biomass-based diesel carve-out from 1 billion gallons to 1.28 billion gallons for 2013. National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe expressed that RFS2 is still considered “new and vulnerable to attack,” and, therefore the success and protection of RFS2 is the NBB’s—the industry’s—top priority. He made it a point to argue for the reinstatement of the once-again-lapsed $1 per gallon federal blenders tax credit, saying that it “reduces RFS compliance costs.” Jobe also said he and NBB chairman Gary Haer are staffing a new RIN integrity task force of which obligated parties, members of EPA, producers and other stakeholders will be a part. “If you commit RIN fraud, you will go to jail,” Jobe said emphatically.
Several small and medium producers at the event told Biodiesel Magazine that they were suffering because they could not timely sell their RINs right now due to obligated party concerns of fraud. Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs, said the organization has “mobilized all its resources and tapped into its reserves” in its effort to increase next year’s biodiesel mandate to 1.28 billion gallons. Steckel said the tax credit comes into play at this juncture because EPA looks at the tax credit status when considering yearly volumes. On a general session panel with oil industry representatives, Charlie Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association, made his position on RFS2 very clear. “It’s not working as intended,” he said, adding that the policy is an anachronism now that the U.S. is more “energy-rich” than in 2007. “I have as much chance of buying a unicorn as I do a gallon of cellulosic ethanol. If it were just you guys (biodiesel), we could make it work. But it’s not.” Regarding RFS2, Drevna said directly to the EPA, “You guys screwed this one up.” Jobe fielded a question from the audience,
PHOTO: NATIONAL BIODIESEL BOARD
Upholding RFS2, RIN integrity and expanding mandate lead discussions
POLITICAL SHAKER: Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs, addressed the general session in Orlando for the first time in her new position with the organization.
which asked, “if not this (subsidies and mandates), then what?” meaning, if the oil industry deems subsidies and mandates as the wrong ways to go about developing markets for biofuels, then how should it be done? Drevna’s answer: “consumer choice.” —Ron Kotrba
Known for getting the deal done right, we’ve been assisting with the development and financing of renewable energy projects since 1996. The next time you need guidance with financing, debt restructuring, tax and securities issues, contracts, government compliance, permitting, or general business plan advice, turn to the experienced attorneys that make up Lindquist & Vennum’s renewable energy groups.
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Piedmont Proves Out Liquid Enzyme Catalysis
An Endeavor into Biofuel
The founder of Pittsboro, N.C.-based Piedmont Biofuels, Rachel Burton, gave details at the 2012 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando on the company’s new commercially proven enzymatic transesterification process. Last year at this time, Burton introduced Piedmont Biofuels’ FAeSTER process, an enzymatic pretreatment developed in collaboration with global enzyme maker Novozymes, to replace acid esterification. The FAeSTER process used immobilized enzymes, or enzymes fixed to a medium to esterify free fatty acids into biodiesel. Now, the innovative team at Piedmont Biofuels has “switched gears,” as she said, and developed the first commercial-scale transesterification process using liquid, rather than immobilized, enzymes. The FAeSTER process still has its uses in Piedmont Biofuels’ new approach, however, but instead of it being used as a pretreatment step, it is now used as a fuel polishing procedure to convert FFAs in the biodiesel on the backend of the production cycle. Also, the feedstock can contain water with no issues, unlike when using chemical catalysts, which would cause soaps to form and loss of product yield.
In mid-January the University of Rhode Island topped off its research ship Endeavor’s fuel tank with 53,000 gallons of biodiesel-blended fuel. The move was the initial step in URI’s plan to transform the 185-foot ship into the most energyefficient and “green” research vessel in the nation. In total, about 14,000 gallons of B5 was added to the ship’s tank. The renewable portion of the fuel was made by local producer Newport Biodiesel and delivered to the port by Malloy Biodiesel. According to Dennis Nixon, the associate dean for research and administration at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, the goal is to gradually increase the percentage of biodiesel contained in the ship’s fuel, up to a B20 blend. “It is vitally important that as we study the marine environment around the world on this great research vessel that we have the smallest environmental impact possible,” Nixon says. “The first step in that transformation was the policy decision to use locally produced biodiesel fuel for the ship’s generators and main engine. We are committed to using biodiesel whenever the ship refuels in Rhode Island, and we will attempt to secure biodiesel when it refuels in distant ports as well.” —Erin Voegele
Small North Carolina producer continues to innovate
During the same panel, Novozymes’ P.M. Nielsen discussed the same process, but instead of using enzymatic polishing, the company’s patent-pending BioFAME process uses a caustic wash to clean the fuel. The liquid enzymes can be reused up to 10 times with 90 to 95 percent conversion rate. “The breakeven point is five or six uses,” Burton said. The liquid enzymes in the water/glycerin phase can be recirculated back to the reactor, or they can be recovered through membrane filtration. The resulting glycerin is 97 percent pure, giving added value to the coproduct. Burton said just a couple of weeks ago, Piedmont Biofuels scaled up to commercial volumes, 2,700 gallons in a coilheated cone-bottom reactor. The feedstock was soy oil. After only six to eight hours of residence time, she said the results were “amazing”—less than 2 percent FFAs and the reaction was complete. This, she said, proves that a 100 percent enzyme-converted fuel can meet ASTM quality specifications. —Ron Kotrba
University of Rhode Island fuels its research vessel with biodiesel
Frazier, Barnes & Associates, LLC Biodiesel Consulting FBA provides value-added consulting services to existing biodiesel companies, obligated parties and early stage development firms. For more than a decade, FBA has provided technical and marketing services to the biodiesel industry. Phone: 901-725-7258 www.FrazierBarnes.com 10
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Feasibility Studies / Business Plans RFS2 Registration and Pathways Project Commercialization Feedstock Procurement Technology Due Diligence Business Valuations/Appraisals Product Marketing Plant Sales
...Trust ...Results ...Experience
Independent Engineering Pre-Treatment Solutions Product Quality Optimization Plant Expansion Justification Commisioning Services Operator Training Process Troubleshooting Process Safety Management
Frazier, Barnes & Associates, LLC
Delta Development New plant under development in Louisiana
A former polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pelletization plant in Plaquemine, La., will soon be home to a new biodiesel plant. Construction on the facility, which is under development by Louisiana Biodiesel LLC, is expected to begin during the second quarter of this year. Ken Brown, the company’s president and CEO, expects the facility to be in operation during the first half of 2013. The plant will have an initial capacity of 48 MMgy, with expansion up to 100 MMgy possible in the future, assuming economics support increased production, Brown says. He notes that the facility will also feature multifeedstock capabilities. According to Brown, the plant will include feedstock pretreatment and distillation equipment. Rather than using traditional catalysts, the proposed plant will employ a solid-state calciumbased catalyst manufactured by Albemarle Corp. “We expect to have fewer issues with the cleanup of our glycerin because we are not using a sodium-based catalyst and there are no salts,” Brown says. One of the primary benefits of locating in Louisiana is the future plant’s proximity to RFS2 obligated parties. Brown says his company expects to sell most of its product into this compliance market. “Nonetheless, our goal is always going to be to maximize price and we are going to look for the best market for our product,” he continues. “We have the transportation infrastructure to send it anywhere.” There are other benefits associated with the Louisiana location, Brown adds. “Louisiana has a very friendly business environment,” he says. “We have a lot of local partners involved in our project, and we
have received a number of state incentives to locate our project there. We’ve had wonderful support from the Iberville Parish president, the parish board and the Iberville Chamber of Commerce, as well as the state of Louisiana Economic Development.” The plant will be located on the Mississippi adjacent to a Dow Chemical facility. “We are negotiating a services agreement with Dow right now to provide transportation infrastructure support as well as a number of site utilities for us,” Brown says. “Dow has a deepwater terminal, so we would be able to bring ships and barges as well as trains and trucks into our facility.” —Erin Voegele
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NBB Works to Maintain an Effective, Workable RFS Last year saw one of the most dramatic comebacks of an industry in recent memory. After production volumes dropped by more than half over the past two years, the biodiesel industry hung in there and pulled itself up to more than 300 percent growth in a single year—our first 1 billion gallon year. But despite record biodiesel production, job creation and billions of dollars of economic activity, the industry still faces challenges ahead. The RFS is an incredibly powerful piece of energy policy but it is still very new and vulnerable to attack. Recently, two serious legal challenges to the RFS were resolved. The petroleum industry challenge was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. District Court dismissed the challenge from the environmental and livestock groups. NBB was an intervener in both cases, fighting for our industry’s position. Now, with no current legal challenges in courts the industry can focus on three areas key to solidifying the RFS: integrity of RINS in the marketplace, biomass-based diesel volumes for 2013 and beyond, and political attacks to the program. First, we all know that there have been cases of RIN fraud that created invalid RINs in the system, and we at NBB fully understand the difficulties this is creating in our industry. While RIN fraud harmed obligated parties significantly, it has also had adverse effects on the RIN markets. Many medium and small biodiesel producers have been unable to monetize the value of their RINs because of the uncertainty the fraud cases have created. NBB is fully committed to addressing this issue head-on, and we are working as fast as we can to develop both short- and longer-term solutions. For the near-term, we are exploring interim measures to help NBB members move quickly to monetize the value of their RINs. For the long-term, NBB Chairman Gary Haer recently appointed a RIN Integrity Task Force that includes representatives from obligated parties, blenders, biodiesel producers and the EPA. The goal of the task force is to formally evaluate the RIN program, identify possible weakness, consider existing RIN integrity programs and options, and identify solutions. To ensure that the RFS remains a workable piece of energy policy it is paramount that obligated parties have confidence within the marketplace in the program’s currency for compliance. The main driver for biodiesel gallons within the RFS has been, and likely will continue to be, the biomass-based diesel category.
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As many of you know, the EPA in December delayed its proposed volume increase for the 2013 volumes. With the agency having the authority to grow the biomass-based diesel category above 1 billion gallons for 2013 and beyond, NBB ratcheted up its grassroots advocacy campaign this winter. NBB members hit Capitol Hill in FebruJoe Jobe, CEO, ary for a fly-in to meet with lawmakers and National Biodiesel key administration officials, nearly 1,600 let- Board ters were generated and sent to Washington from the National Biodiesel Conference, and NBB staff continue to have daily meetings on the Hill with representatives from EPA, the Office of Management and Budget, USDA, the White House, and members of the House and Senate. The decision on the 2013 volumes could potentially set a precedent for future growth for the biodiesel industry and is vitally important in the growth of the industry within the RFS policy framework. The third challenge that the RFS faces is political attacks. One of the main arguments for political opponents of the RFS is the cost of the program. Opponents argue the costs for the obligated parties to comply are being passed directly to the consumers. While this hasn’t shown to be the case, anything we can do to lower the cost of biodiesel to the obligated parties strengthens the industry’s position, and this includes extension of the biodiesel tax credit. NBB is absolutely committed to the success and the protection of the RFS as our top priority. That means that everything we do is supportive of that objective including government affairs efforts on RIN integrity, biomass-based diesel volume obligations, the biodiesel tax incentive, as well as efforts within our communications, technical, sustainability, fuel quality or other programs. Last year demonstrated that the RFS is a successful policy and that it works in achieving what Congress intended, which is to stimulate the production of clean, American-made renewable fuels. But despite the successes of the first year of the program for the biodiesel industry, it is clear that the RFS will have its challenges today and in the future. Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board
NBB Highest biodiesel honors awarded to OEMs, biodiesel users, researchers The National Biodiesel Board recognized biodiesel champions with the annual Eye on Biodiesel awards presented at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla. “Biodiesel, America’s advanced biofuel, would not be what it is today without champions and supporters like these Eye on Biodiesel honorees,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the NBB. “We are proud to recognize these leaders from all facets of the biodiesel industry.” The NBB’s 2012 Eye on Biodiesel award categories and their winners are: • Impact: Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc. and Hino Trucks. In 2011, two new equipment manufacturers joined the ranks of B20 supporters. Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc. announced that all of its 2011 and forward model year diesel trucks are approved for use with B20. Isuzu was a trailblazer as the first Asian manufacturer to approve B20 for U.S. market spec engines. Hino Trucks, a Toyota Group Company, then multiplied the market impact by becoming the first manufacturer to support the use of B20 biodiesel blends in a hybrid-electric truck, as well as in its complete product line of class 4 and 5 cab over, and class 6 and 7 conventional trucks. With these two additions, 95 percent of the U.S. medium-duty truck market now approves B20. • Industry Partnership: U.S. EPA, Paul Argyropoulos and the Office of Transportation and Air Quality. The EPA has taken a strong leadership role in creating a workable renewable fuels program under the Clean Air Act that meets the intent of Congress to stimulate domestically produced, alternative fuels. “Throughout the past four years, NBB has worked with EPA on implementation of the program and we appreciate their willingness to listen to our industry in making critical policy decisions,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the NBB. “The agency’s balanced, professional oversight has ensured that the nation is meeting the goals that Congress envisioned, including strong, sustainable growth in biomass-based diesel production.” • Initiative: Brent Hajek, Hajek Motorsports. “Just because it’s ‘green’ doesn’t mean it’s slow.” That's the mantra of Brent Hajek, owner of Hajek Motorsports and record-setting driver of the 2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup truck that sped to an amazing new 182 mph land speed record running on a 20 percent biodiesel blend at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah last summer. Hajek set out to prove that B20 isn't only cleaner and greener, but it has the ability to perform better than petroleum diesel even under the most demanding conditions.
Tom Lubas, Director, Operations Services Department for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey accepts the Influence Award.
• Innovation: Keith Kline and Virginia Dale—Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Keith Kline and Virginia Dale are leaders in scientific thought and published research on the true environmental impact of biodiesel and renewable fuels. Their published works on measurement of land use change and environmental impacts of feedstock production provide needed perspective in a political atmosphere that threatens to stymie advancement of alternative fuels due to speculation and unsupported claims against the environmental reputation of biofuels. • Influence: The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The Port Authority has been a strong biodiesel supporter and user since 2000 using B20 in all its diesel vehicles used to maintain famous New York and New Jersey locations such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, the World Trade Center and JFK International airport. Its biodiesel fueling network includes 12 on-site fueling locations in addition to a network of off-site retail service stations. Its strong commitment to biodiesel remains an example for fleets across the country. During the conference, NBB also presented its Pioneer Award to Krysta Harden, chief of staff for USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Throughout her three decades in Washington, D.C., Harden has held numerous positions including with Gordley Associates, representing the American Soybean Association. Harden was instrumental in laying the groundwork for federal biodiesel policies that have been hugely successful in growing a viable biodiesel industry. MARCH | APRIL 2012
NBB members finalize program plan, set direction for the industry Part of NBB members’ role is to define the long-term objectives and programs for their trade association. The No. 1 priority of the February membership meeting was to finalize the fiscal year (FY) 2013 program plan. The final vote on the program plan was an important step in setting the direction of the industry. As a member organization, the entire process of developing the program plan is carried out by the membership. Through technical, marketing and regulatory meetings, the process identifies opportunities, as well as issues facing the industry. There are many ways NBB members can provide input to the program plan including: committee meetings, direct member input, an online survey, and formal webinar meetings. This wide variety of media allows for maximum member input, and includes many levels of participation. One of the greatest values NBB provides to its membership is the ability to leverage dues dollars with outside funding. Of the $14 million program being implemented by NBB in FY 2012, $11 million
came from nondues sources including the soybean checkoff program and federal agency grants. This is money above and beyond what members contribute in the form of dues dollars to carry out projects and programs vital to industry growth. “Not only are members’ dues dollars leveraged at better than three to one, they ultimately decide how that money is spent for the betterment of the industry,” said NBB membership director Doug Whitehead. “The NBB Program Plan encompasses technical, marketing, legislative and regulatory priorities and is the key mechanism to make sure the NBB is serving its members in the best way possible.” The planning process captures member input and is a way to share association priorities with members. NBB staff and contractors are constantly interacting with biodiesel companies, regulators, users, engine and vehicle companies and distributors to better understand the needs and priorities of the industry.
Biodiesel conference highlights high-profile biodiesel users Every year the National Biodiesel Conference Vehicle Showcase features stories from some of the newest and highest profile biodiesel-powered vehicles around. OEM representatives, fleet managers and biodiesel advocates were on hand to showcase their biodiesel use and share their support for the industry. The 2012 edition saw a custom-built biodiesel chopper unveiled by Paul Teutul Sr., a land-speed record-setting Ford F-250 from Hajek Motorsports, and pieces of two of Florida’s greenest fleets in NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Florida Power & Light. “The use of biodiesel in this broad range of applications really illustrates the power of biodiesel to consumers,” said National Biodiesel Board Technical Director Steve Howell. “The fact that so many OEMs are here and excited to talk about their biodiesel use is a testament to the great advances in fuel quality and confidence in the industry as a whole.” Rounding out the display were three vehicles demonstrating the promise of using biodiesel in diesel-electric hybrid vehicles. Hino Trucks featured its groundbreaking new 2012 Hino 195h medium-duty truck, one of the first hybrid trucks approved for use with B20. Bdcotsrus, a nonprofit group, revealed its Progressive Automotive X-Prize contender—a Diesel Electric eXperimental Vehicle built from commercial off-the-shelf parts that achieved greater than 100 miles per gallon on B20. And finally, the future of biodiesel took on a luxurious look as CIMA Green presented the Fisker Karma hybrid electric sports car, due for a diesel-electric option later this year. 14
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Motorsports enthusiast and soybean farmer Brent Hajek showed off his land-speed record-setting Ford F-250, which clocked 182 mph running on a B20 biodiesel blend.
Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers reveals a custom biodiesel bike donated to NBB from member CIMA Green Energy. NBB will use the bike to promote biodiesel at industry events.
Scientists speak out for biodiesel as part of sensible energy strategy Biodiesel has a unique and powerful story when it comes to sustainability. In fact, you could easily argue that it is the most sustainable liquid fuel available today. Word is getting out that science is on biodiesel’s side. In February, experts called for increased usage of biofuels and biodiesel in North America. The scientists, academics and economic analysts were gathered in Orlando, Fla., for the “Sustainability Symposium on Renewable and Transportation Fuels,” part of the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo. The USDA and U.S. DOE organized the symposium that was included with conference registration. NBB’s Sustainability Program was central to coordinating this unique effort to assemble scientists from a wide range of disciplines to look at all aspects of the biodiesel industry. A central theme was that common solutions exist to increase food and energy security simultaneously, while providing economic and environmental benefits to society. “We need to start thinking of agriculture as multifunctional,” said Stephen Kaffka of the University of California-Davis Department of Plant Sciences. Worldwide, bioenergy done correctly can be part of the solution to address food insecurity and poverty, said Keith Kline of Oak Ridge Na-
tional Laboratory. Reducing crop price volatility benefits both producers and consumers, which biofuels accomplish through diversifying and expanding production and markets. When biofuels increase incomes and build resilience for rural families, they help ensure a lasting food supply. Robert Zubrin, author of Energy Victory, gave a passionate speech on how dependence on foreign oil threatens national security. “Today, we are 60 percent dependent on imported oil and spend more on imported oil than we spend on national defense. It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” Zubrin said. Of course, central to biodiesel’s appeal is its positive impact on the environment. The experts vouched for the life-cycle analysis used to demonstrate biodiesel’s emissions reductions as very comprehensive, including indirect emissions. Science shows that biodiesel maintains a significant greenhouse gas benefit, even when held to a higher standard than conventional fuels. Ultimately, biofuels fit well into a comprehensive energy policy, the experts said. A sustainable and cleaner energy source that boosts American jobs and displaces billions of gallons of foreign oil can help guide the nation toward a more secure energy future.
Capturing the event with images More than 1,200 biodiesel industry representatives attended this year’s National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla. Check out www.blog.biodieselconference.org for more images, interviews and videos from the 2012 conference. Be sure to save the date now for Feb. 4-7, 2013, when the conference heads to Las Vegas.
Student scientists representing universities across the country received scholarships from NBB to attend this year’s conference.
NBB Chairman Gary Haer set the tone with opportunities and challenges the industry faces during the general session.
Attendees took every opportunity during the conference to do business including the trade show, formal networking opportunities and between sessions.
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BusinessBriefs Bridgeport BioDiesel LLC hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of its 1 MMgy biodiesel multifeedstock production facility located in Bridgeport, Conn. The new plant is one of several tenants sited at an ecoindustrial park that’s currently under development in Bridgeport. Expected to be fully complete in the next decade, the park will house co-located renewable energy and ecofriendly projects such as an anaerobic digester, an algae farm and a mattress recycling facility. The plant is currently permitted to produce 1 MMgy of biodiesel exclusively from used cooking oil sourced from area restaurants, hospitals, school cafeterias and other food processing establishments in a 60-mile radius. The facility is designed for capacity expansion to 3 MMgy. The company noted it is in the process of obtaining a second permit to produce an additional 1 MMgy of biodiesel derived from collected brown grease. A third shift may be added, Russo said, to produce yet another 1 MMgy.
Companies, Organizations & People in the News
BASF officially inaugurated its new worldscale production plant for sodium methylate in Guaratinguetá, Brazil, its largest site in South America. The plant has a capacity of 60,000 metric tons per year and is supplying the regional market. Production started at the end of 2011 and the plant has been continuously delivering product quality. It is the first BASF plant for this product in South America and the second in the world, in addition to a plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Capital expenditure for the project was in the low, double-digit million euro range. Sodium methylate is an efficient and reliable catalyst for the production of biodiesel. Legislation in Brazil requires fuel to contain 5 percent biodiesel. In Argentina, biodiesel makes up 7 percent of fuel. Other South American countries have similar legislation.
Melbourne, Fla.-based PetroAlgae Inc. has changed its name to Parabel Inc. According to information released by the company, the new name better reflects its strategic changes and commercial milestones. Information issued by Parabel noted that its proprietary technology addresses global demand for new sources of feed, food and fuel. According to the company, its open-pond bioreactor technology enables customer licensees to grow, harvest, and process locally available, aquatic microcrops. Parabel’s technology is used to cultivate microcrops from the Lemnaceae family, including duckweed. The company filed an IPO registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission August 2010, and amended that registration December 2011. Due to the pending IPO, Parabel is not currently able to offer additional comments on the name change. Parabel operates a demonstration-scale algae production facility in Fellsmere, Fla.
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BUSINESSBRIEFS Sponsored by tivating and harvesting its elite lines of pongamia trees, 30,000 trees worth (about 200 acres), in south Texas in an effort to demonstrate and communicate to area farmers the benefits of pongamia as a valuable oilseed crop that can positively contribute to their overall operations. California-based TerViva Bioenergy Inc. is focused on the development and commercialization of Pongamia pinnata, a legume tree native to Australia and India, which, according to the company, holds equal, if not superior, potential as a viable biodiesel feedstock in the U.S. TerViva has developed special varieties of pongamia trees that produce seed-bearing pods. They typically contain between 30 and 40 percent oil, which consists of nearly 50 percent oleic acid. The pods can be harvested via existing mechanical shaking equipment such as those employed in the nut industries, and the oil can be extracted using existing crushing equipment with no modifications. TerViva has established test plot operations for cul-
San Diego-based SG Biofuels Inc., a bioenergy crop company using breeding and biotechnology to develop hybrid seeds of jatropha, has secured $17 million in a Series B round of financing led by Thomas, McNerney & Partners with participation from Finistere Ventures and existing investors Flint Hills Resources LLC and Life Technologies Corp. As a result of the fresh infusion of funding, Pratik Shah, partner at Thomas, McNerney, and Jerry Caulder, managing director for Finistere Ventures, joined SG Biofuelsâ€™ board of directors. According to a statement by the company, the funding will be used to expand research and
development and advanced commercialization efforts and global jatropha planting operations. The company employs molecular breeding and biotechnology to significantly improve yields of jatropha seedlings and reduce input costs. The company added that it has developed proprietary hybrid seed production technology that enables large-scale deployment of higher-yielding and uniform planting material adapted to unique growing conditions around the world. Its hybrid seeds, trademarked JMax, on average provide double the yield of existing commercial varieties planted in similar conditions.
SHARE YOUR BUSINESS BRIEFS To be included in Business Briefs, send information (including photos, illustrations or logos, if available) to: Business Briefs, Biodiesel Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also fax information to (701) 746-5367, or e-mail it to rkotrba@ bbiinternational.com. Please include your name and telephone number in each correspondence.
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Innovation Heats Up Unique process heat solutions offer biodiesel producers options to increase efficiency and cut costs BY ERIN VOEGELE
All biodiesel plants require heat. While many facilities feature traditional boiler systems, alternatives do exist. Not all alternatives are appropriate for all plants, but producers electing to implement nontraditional heating systems can reduce fuel and maintenance costs and increase efficiency. The specific alternative most appropriate for a given plant can be dependent upon a variety of factors, including plant size. Small plants may be able to eliminate the use of traditional boiler systems completely while larger plants may better be served by installing burner systems capable of handling more affordable alternative fuels. MARCH | APRIL 2012
PROCESS HEAT Development on innovative heating solutions will continue, but several unique heating systems are already in operation at plants across the U.S. In North Carolina, Patriot BioDiesel LLC has installed a system featuring ceramic elements that greatly improve safety by nearly eliminating the risk of methanol ignition. Alternatively, South Carolina-based Midlands Biofuels LLC has developed its own closed-loop recirculation system that provides on-demand heat to the system’s media. In addition, a variety of producers nationwide are utilizing an innovative burner system that allows waste glycerin, offspec biodiesel and other waste materials to serve as the system’s primary source of fuel. Innovative Heat Concepts LLC has developed a heating system that can increase operational safety at a plant while eliminating the risk of oil scorching. According to Chris Gupta, company owner, the technology features ceramic chip heating elements encapsulated by a composite of titanium powder and other materials. When an electrical current is applied to the elements, heat is produced. The system, called PTC Heating Technology,
self-regulates based on fluid viscosity, Gupta says, which avoids the potential of scorching. Patriot BioDiesel recently installed the ceramic heating system as part of a plant expansion. The PTC system has completely eliminated the need for a traditional boiler. According to Gabe Neeriemer, Patriot BioDiesel’s president, one clear benefit is that the high-efficiency elements detect media they’re in and adjust heat output. The elements also vastly reduce the risk of fire because they won’t ignite methanol vapors. Patriot BioDiesel has been operating the PTC system since December. “We are extremely happy with the system,” Neeriemer says. “The original reason I went to the heating elements was they would eliminate the need for a boiler,” adding boilers generally waste as much energy as they create. In expanding, Patriot BioDiesel effectively doubled its production capacity but Neeriemer says the new ceramic heating system hasn’t resulted in significant increases in electricity use, and natural gas
use has actually been reduced. Natural gas was used to warm the facility’s glycerin and vegetable oil, but during expansion Patriot BioDiesel installed heat exchangers to recapture heat, reducing its natural gas use. Innovative Heat Concepts supplies PTC systems to a variety of customers, including those active in the biodiesel, algae and aquaculture sectors. “We are the sole supplier of PTC heater systems to Tactical Fabrication Co. in Dublin, Ga., for use in their biodiesel preheaters and reactors,” Gupta says. While some heat alteratives are most appropriate for plants of a certain size, Innovative Heat Concepts’ system can be custom-fabricated to accommodate any size plant, Gupta says, and the technology easily can be integrated at new or existing plants. Neeriemer says Gupta’s company is designing new systems that specifically address biodiesel needs. He compares one innovation to a tankless water heater that can preheat vegetable oil as it enters the reactor. It’s essentially a continuous flow heat exchanger that uses the unique ceram-
PROCESS HEAT ic elements. Innovative Heat Solutions has also modified its technology in a similar fashion for use in methanol recovery. While the efficiency of the system is certainly attractive, as are reduced plant maintenance needs, the safety benefits of ceramic heating elements are perhaps the most striking benefit. “If safety and heat efficiency is a concern, then our ceramic heating systems should be the first choice for a heating system,” Gupta says. “The inherent safety and consistent heating associated with our product is unmatched.”
The system takes up very little space within a plant and maintenance requirements are minimal. “You basically make sure the system remains full of fluid,” Spence notes. “It’s pretty much set it and forget it.” That said, Spence stresses the system wouldn’t be right for all producers. Rather, it’s most appropriately implemented by facilities with production capacities of 1 MMgy or less. “This is more for small producers,” he says. “It’s more manageable, less overhead and less work.”
While Midlands Biofuels uses the system to generate all the heat its plant uses, including process heat, Spence notes it’s especially good for the pretreatment and preparation of waste oil feedstocks. According to Spence, Midlands Biofuels currently has two of these systems in operation under its ownership, and has also started building them for other biodiesel plants. In fact, two other producers are employing the system in their operations, either to provide full process heat to the facility or as a separate system for feedstock pretreatment.
Heating on Demand Community-scale biodiesel producers often face a different set of challenges than their industrial counterparts. While traditional boiler systems may best suit many large-scale producers, the costs to purchase, install and maintain them may be difficult for small-scale producers to manage. To help mitigate those issues, Midlands Biofuels designed its own unique boiler-free heating system. According to Brandon Spence, facility co-owner and CEO, the system has been operating at his plant since mid-2008. “We didn’t have the money to buy or install a large commercial boiler system that is used in most plants,” Spence says. “We’re also a small plant, so we didn’t necessarily need that size of a system.” To overcome those issues, Spence and plant co-owner, “Bio” Joe Renwick, began investigating exactly where heat was needed in the process and how that heat could be transferred and introduced into the plant. The result was the development of a small, modular, closed-loop circulation system that is fueled with natural gas. The system is very affordable—Spence estimates the total cost is about one-tenth the price of a standard boiler. Similar to tankless water heaters, Midlands Biofuels’ system heats a water/ glycol mixture present in its recirculative loop on demand and typically operates at 140 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. “It’s got an expansion tank and a pump, and it delivers heat at whatever temperature we need it to at a certain point,” Spence says.
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PROCESS HEAT Burning Better Fuel Systems on the market also allow traditional boilers to be more flexible by burning alternative fuels. AgSolutions LLC has been doing business with the U.S. biodiesel industry since 2004. Its burner technology allows a boiler to be fueled with a significant portion of crude glycerin. Anthony Taylor, AgSolution president and owner, estimates that his company has supplied nearly 50 of its systems to the U.S. biodiesel industry over the past eight years.
Equipped to run on No. 2 fuel oil, the system can also take in low-quality vegetable oils, transmission fluid, used motor oil, or off-spec biodiesel as fuel. Depending on several factors, including glycerin quality and the burner’s specific design, the system can cofire these fuels with up to 75 percent crude glycerin. Taylor says the methanol content of the glycerin can range from 3 to 27 percent. “What differentiates this from a standard No. 2 fuel oil burner or gas burner is
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we have to preheat the fuel to a high temperature, typically 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit,” Taylor says. “We also use a source of compressed air that pulls the fuel out of the nozzle and atomizes it into a fine particulate.” The atomization process allows the fuel to be heated to a lower temperature than would otherwise be required. When you try to simply burn crude glycerin, you end up with issues because the flash point of the methanol is much lower, Taylor says. That means the methanol will burn first, and the glycerin will burn separately and produce a tremendous amount of ash. “By blending the glycerin-methanol blend with another fuel product—conventional or unconventional—you can basically bind it together and have a single combustion taking place,” Taylor explains. “No more precombustion of the methanol right out of the burner, and your final combustion is much cleaner, much more thorough and the ash is significantly reduced.” Taylor is careful to point out the solution won’t be appropriate for all plants. “While most people are successful at it, there are others who will fail,” he says. “It’s not for everyone, and typically that has to do with the water content of the glycerin.” Glycerin with 6 percent water or less typically do well, Taylor says, adding that smaller systems without a separate small gas train in the burner can typically only handle a fuel mix that contains about 50 percent glycerin. The fuel mixture also has to be kept warm. Since the glycerin separates out from the fuel mix, it is also important that it’s continually mixed. It simply doesn’t make financial or operational sense to add those capabilities to some facilities, Taylor adds. He also says there’s more flexibility with the quality of glycerin as the size of the boiler system increases. “The larger the system,” Taylor says, “the larger the flame, the fewer issues you’ll have with higher water content in glycerin.” Author: Erin Voegele Associate Editor, Biodiesel Magazine (701) 540-6986 email@example.com
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TIME-TESTED: More than two dozen of the biodiesel plants built by BDI-BioEnergy across the globe use the proven potassium-based catalyst for transesterification. PHOTO: BDI-BIOENERGY INTERNATIONAL AG
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An analysis of conventional acid and base catalysts used in today’s biodiesel industry BY BRYAN SIMS
Catalysts play an important role in the overall profitability of a biodiesel production enterprise. Minimizing catalyst use, particularly homogenous catalysts, while simultaneously maximizing product quality and process yield is a pervasive challenge that every biodiesel producer encounters daily because, after all, single digit differences in yield can determine whether margins are positive or negative. Among the most common and reliable catalysts for traditional transesterification of biodiesel, one that has supported the steady production volume increases over the past decade, is the homogenous, ready-to-use base catalysts of sodium and potassium methylate. Some smaller plants and many backyard brewers still prepare catalyst themselves by mixing sodium or potassium hydroxide (caustic soda or potash, respectively) with methanol, a practice that was more common years ago, but today the homogeneous catalyst of choice in the industry today is ready-to-use sodium methylate. Biodiesel producers tout the benefits of using sodium methylate as a catalyst—either in its solid crystal state or in a solution with methanol—including increased biodiesel yield, lower purification costs and more consistent quality. Nearly all biodiesel technology providers and design/build firms, such as Germany-based BDI-BioEnergy International AG, offer process technologies and plant designs based on the utilization of readyto-use homogeneous catalysts. Out of the 31 biodiesel plants BDIBioEnergy has built globally, 26 of them use a proven homogenous potassium-based catalyst after a conventional esterification step to treat feedstocks with higher free fatty acids (FFA). BDI-BioEnergy’s business development manager for North America, Klaus Ruhmer, says potassium-based catalysts offer key advantages over the sodium counterpart, particularly for feedstocks up to 20 percent FFA conMARCH | APRIL 2012
TECHNOLOGY tent, including the ability to handle remaining FFAs, better settling behavior, and the ability to separate soaps and recover FFAs from glycerin for further yield increases, to name a few. “For potassium-based catalyst processes, we dose according to feedstock parameters for optimal process performance,” Ruhmer tells Biodiesel Magazine. “Some of BDI’s key intellectual property revolves around the optimization of all these aspects with the overall effect of achieving the highest possible yield at the lowest cost possible.” A ready-to-use sodium methylate solution may be the predominantly used catalyst by a majority of biodiesel producers today, but this wasn’t always the case, particularly during the industry’s period of breakneck growth five to six years ago in the U.S. when a majority of small-scale producers like Patriot BioDiesel LLC, a 6.5 MMgy multifeedstock facility in Greensboro, N.C., relied heavily on manually mixing caustic soda or potash with methanol itself in order to come up with the best possible combination to react with a variety of virgin and high-FFA feedstocks. After several years of trial and error figuring out the optimal blend of sodium and potassium hydroxide mixtures per-batch, per-weight with methanol, President Gabe Neeriemer anecdotally tells Biodiesel Magazine that his company settled on a 30 percent sodium methylate solution rather than a 25 percent solution. “It’s more cost-effective for us,” he says, adding the reactivity with using a 30 percent sodium methoxide (SMO) solution is much higher for his process. “There’s something about that initial hit with a really strong caustic that seems to drive high FFA oil to react a little bit more,” Neeriemer says. “After a couple millions of gallons of biodiesel, you start to notice these little things.” Fortunately, at a time when biodiesel producers like Patriot BioDiesel were busy customizing recipes of “home-grown” catalyst solutions and mixtures with methanol—which spurred handling and safety issues as a result—major global chemical companies like
BASF, Dupont, SMOTEC Plus, Evonik Industries AG and others have honed in on becoming enablers for the industry, each offering their own unique manufacturing processes for catalysts, business acumen and global presence to bear.
Improving the Base While sodium or potassium methylate can be considered the active species in the catalytic cycle of the transesterification process, they cannot, however, be improved chemically with the target of a quicker or more complete conversion or a higher selectivity, according to Johannes Ruwwe, director of strategic development advanced intermediates for long-time biodiesel catalyst manufacturer and supplier Evonik. The company currently owns and operates a sodium methylate production facility in Germany and a 60,000 metric ton facility in Mobile, Ala. In September, Evonik broke ground on another sodium methylate facility in Puerto General San Martin, Argentina. “Alkoxides are and will be the industry standard,” Ruwwe says. “This is reflected in the fact that alkoxides are currently used already and allow almost perfect biodiesel yields.” Evonik’s approach to improving the use of these catalysts, according to Ruwwe, is to develop tailor-made recipe guidelines for specific feedstocks or groups of feedstocks that include optimizing temperature or residence time parameters and, particularly, the refining steps prior to transesterification. “We have accomplished this and it is ongoing,” Ruwwe says. “Evonik’s research and development has evaluated and patented BASE-MASTER: methods to improve the subsequent phase sep- Johannes Ruwwe aration to remove the liberated glycerol, but this with Evonik says alkoxides are and research is in the early stages.” will always be the While demand for homogenous catalyst industry standard is attributed to more of a function of run rate for catalysis.
rather than the composition of feedstock, sales of homogenous catalysts such as sodium methylate haven’t been dramatically affected with the industry’s progressive movement toward multifeedstock processing, according to German chemical company BASF. This is because catalyst manufacturers and suppliers like BASF are recognizing the trend over the past several years from biodiesel producers moving away from using caustic soda and potash to using more ready-to-use methylate catalysts due to achieving higher yields. As a result, catalyst suppliers have become more responsive to their customers’ needs supplying either sodium or potassium methylate as their feedstock needs dictate, says Patrick Amrhein, global marketing manager of standard alcoholates for BASF, which operates a sodium methylate production plant in Ludwig- MARKET STANDARD: Patrick Amrhein, head of marketing standard alcoholates for BASF, holds a product sample of sodium methylate from the chemical firm's newest SMO production facility in shafen, Germany, and a newly inaugurated sec- Guaratinguetá, Brazil. ond facility in Guaratingueta, Brazil. “We see the few remaining plants using cell based chlorine and sodium metal to produce its sodium methyhydroxide catalysts switching to methylate catalysts,” Amrhein says. late at its 60,000 ton sodium methylate facility in Dammam, Saudi “With the increased use of alternate feedstocks, we expect more Arabia. This is because, in addition to supplying sodium methylate [biodiesel] plants to evaluate potassium methylate as an alternative to the biodiesel industry, SMOTEC Plus also produces and supplies to sodium methylate. The industry has moved from 25 percent to the versatile compound to the food, pharmaceutical and nutraceuti30 percent sodium methylate because of reduced transportation and cal markets. storage costs, and we see this trend continuing.” “The production process offers some flexibility compared to For other catalyst manufacturers such as Germany-based cata- the SMOs derived from the chlorine-based process, which is a very lyst manufacturer SMOTEC Plus, the production of sodium methy- expensive process,” Devineni says, “and you need huge economies late has evolved over the years to conform to stringent quality param- of scale. Unless you’re in the chlorine [supply] chain, you can’t get the eters associated with serving multiple markets, including the biodiesel feedstock.” He anticipates supplying additional volumes of sodium industry. According to global director and partner, Prasad Devineni, methylate this year to meet anticipated global demand growth for the company uses caustic soda and methanol rather than mercury- biodiesel markets.
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TECHNOLOGY Augmenting Acid Esterification Homogenous methylate-based catalysts are best suited for treating biodiesel feedstocks that are low in FFAs, but convention says to treat high-FFA feedstocks, the use of homogenous acid catalysts such as sulfuric acid (or sometimes hydrochloric acid) is required during an esterification step. Failing to treat high-FFA feedstocks with an acid can result in unwanted quantities of soaps, water, and more methanol in the final product than desired. Raj Mosali, president of Ohio-based Jatrodiesel, says, “Typically the
higher the FFA going into your transesterification process, the more SMO you need to use, which can range anywhere between 1.5 and 4 percent. But the more SMO used, the more soap you make, so you need to be aware of that. The less SMO you use, the less chance you have of making soap, which decreases further polishing techniques on the backend.” Some of the leading chemical suppliers are introducing novel acid technologies to the biodiesel market to make up for the shortcomings associated with using conventional sulfuric acid. For example, BASF’s
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latest product offering, trademarked Lutropure, offers a modern alternative to standard acid catalysts. According to Amrhein, BASF’s Lutropure is a nonoxidizing, pure methanesulfonic acid catalyst that augments the acid pretreatment step by providing better phase separation, easier handling and less corrosivity compared to sulfuric acid, resulting in higher yield and less maintenance costs. “Users of BASF’s Lutropure catalyst system significantly reduce such problems and achieve a light-colored, in-spec biodiesel with higher yield and shorter process times,” Amrhein says. Unlike para-toluenesulfonic acid, Lutropure is a naturally occurring, readily biodegradable acid. “These properties of Lutropure are also advantageous in the neutralization step of base catalyzed transesterification processes,” Amrhein notes. Not only are global chemical suppliers like BASF introducing novel acid technologies to the biodiesel industry, so too are prominent process technology and design/ build firms such as BDI-BioEnergy, which offers its proprietary RepCat technology to current and would-be biodiesel producing clients. Depending on the plant configuration, BDI-BioEnergy’s RepCat can be utilized for esterification only or for both esterification and transesterification in a single step. “Although an important one, we view the catalyst system as only one of many aspects of a modern biodiesel process,” Ruhmer says. “Implementing an overall process that specifically responds to the characteristics of the catalyst system is the challenge one must overcome. A specific catalyst should never be looked at as a ‘onesize-fits-all’ isolated solution to a biodiesel process.” Author: Bryan Sims Associate Editor, Biodiesel Magazine (701) 738-4974 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Scholastic Beginnings Bob Cerio blazed the biodieselblended heating oil trail—this is his story BY LUKE GEIVER
Until 2001, the electrode tip or the fuel nozzle in an oilheat burner didn’t mean much to the biodiesel industry. But after an energy resource manager for the Warwick, R.I., public schools department decided to test biodiesel-blended heating oil at several of the department’s locations, the term we use today to describe such biodiesel-blended heating oil, Bioheat, was born. Robert Cerio, the Warwick public schools department energy resource manager who led that effort, says that to the best of his knowledge, he was the first person in the U.S. to run biodiesel as heating oil. Biodiesel Magazine spoke with Cerio about his first experiences with biodiesel-blended heating oil in Rhode Island’s second largest city, touching on his maintenance crew’s first encounter with the blend, the people who helped him record the biodiesel journey, and even why he believes biodiesel-blended heating oil might be exactly what New England—“the tailpipe of America”—needs. Although Cerio first ran several blends of biodiesel heating oil in his schools in 2001, his biodiesel work began in 1999 when he was in charge of 29 buildings, consisting of 20 elementary schools, three junior highs, three high schools and one vocational school, 13 of which were heated with No. 2 heating oil. In response both to the district’s need to offset the cost of heating oil, and a Rhode Island grant calling for the use of bioenergy, Cerio began researching the possibility of using biodiesel. “I didn’t know too much about biodiesel at the time,” he says, “but I did have a lot of knowledge about oil.” After researching the properties of biodiesel, Cerio says he got stuck on the cold flow issues, but it didn’t deter him from submitting a grant proposal to blend biodiesel with the heating oil for some of his buildings. “I said to myself, ‘this would be a great blending stock for a No. 6 oil or a No. MARCH | APRIL 2012
PROFILE 4 oil,’ because I knew they were both very polluting and I knew those systems heated their oil year-round to get it to flow.” For Cerio, blending No. 6 oil with biodiesel was a no-brainer, and the state of Rhode Island seemed to agree, giving him enough funding to run biodiesel-blended heating oil in some of his school’s buildings starting in 2001. As Cerio’s grant read, he would run three different blends in three different buildings, and compare them to a control. “My plan was to do it scientifically, I know very little
about this,” he says. “I wanted to prove that it was what they said it was. I wasn’t going to just buy a bunch of biodiesel, throw it in a tank and burn it.” After word got out of Cerio’s Cerio intentions, he wouldn’t have to do it alone. Paul Nazzaro, Advanced Fuel Solutions president and the National Biodiesel Board’s petroleum liaison, picked
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up on what Cerio was doing and the two met at Cerio’s office. Nazzaro not only agreed with Cerio’s plans, but he also told Cerio that if he recorded every step along the way, Nazzaro could get him matching funds from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. With the help of NREL’s Shane K. Tyson, Cerio got a matching grant and help in designing the protocol of how he would operate the blending efforts. In spring 2001, following the heating season, Cerio and his maintenance crew took a complete inventory of all the heating equipment that would be involved and contacted the pertinent equipment manufacturers to explain what they were going to do during the upcoming heating season. They also tuned up the oilheat systems, he says, and photographed everything. In September, they began running B10, B15 and B20 at three different schools with an administration building running on straight heating oil as a control. “We did that for an entire year,” Cerio says, “and then I received a second grant to continue it for an additional year, and to also run biodiesel in our school buses.” To comply with NREL’s testing protocol, Cerio’s crew would take a monthly fuel sample to analyze blend ratio accuracy. “We ran it for two straight years without any problems,” Cerio says. During that time, he learned a lot and he has the documentation to prove why Bioheat is better. When Cerio told his maintenance department his plans for running biodiesel, “they weren’t too crazy about the idea,” he says, but he wanted them involved. “I’ll never forget the very first time they went out to do a scheduled service call on one of the bioheat boilers,” he says. The crew showed up at his office and immediately, Cerio thought there was a problem, from the crew’s facial expressions. All they said, Cerio explains, was, “Bob, smell my hands— they don’t smell like heating oil.” After performing the service call, his crew was finally on board with biodiesel, in part because of how clean and smell-free the boilers were. “That won them over,” he says, and soon after Cerio bought them a digital gas analyzer to perform additional testing on the emissions from the boilers. For two
PROFILE years, the crew performed the necessary testing, documenting every service call and photographing nearly every part used in the boilers. After two years, the heat exchangers didn’t have to be cleaned.
A Decade Later During that sit-down chat between Nazarro and Cerio about Cerio’s plans to run biodiesel-blended heating oil in three different schools, Cerio says they had a mini-epiphany. “When Paul and I sat down the first time we met,” he explains, “we asked each other why nobody else gets it.” What Cerio meant was biodiesel should be more widely used for home heating, perhaps more so than as transportation fuel. Today, he holds the same opinion. In the 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, Cerio says there is more heating oil used than transportation fuel. Of all the middle distillate diesel fuel that comes into those states, he says, 58 percent goes into heating oil and 42 percent goes into transportation. In the state of Rhode Island, 120 million gallons of heating oil is used every year, with 90 million gallons of fuel going towards diesel transportation fuel. More importantly, Cerio explains, those numbers show in part why New England is referred to as the tailpipe of America. With higher sulfur heating oil use concentrated in the region plus the fact that national weather patterns push from west to east, with all the pollution from coal-fired electrical plants in the Midwest combining with emissions that come from California, it is easy to see why New England needs a cleaner burning heating oil. When the polluted air hits the cold Atlantic Ocean, it funnels north towards Northeast states such as Rhode Island or towards the larger cities that already have their own pollution concerns. “From an environmental standpoint, from an emissions standpoint and as far as health and human safety is concerned, biodiesel makes sense,” Cerio says. “It just makes perfect sense.” The practice of using Bioheat has greatly changed since Cerio first started. “We get frustrated sometimes and we say, ‘why isn’t biodiesel mainstream yet (in heating oil applications)?’, but you think about
how far we’ve come in those 12 years.” From the time he started compared to now, there are three biodiesel producers in Rhode Island alone, and a dozen different gas stations offer biodiesel blends. And as Cerio will tell anyone who will listen, the story of Bioheat was great from day one. Cerio says the main aspects people need to understand is the process of handling and storing biodiesel, all of which has been documented by the NBB. And although Cerio is no longer directly linked to the War-
wick school district and the biodiesel-blended heating fuel days of the past, his story continues. Today, Cerio is the founder and president of Ocean State Energy Resources, a consulting firm that helps people understand the process of implementing Bioheat into their oilheat mix. Author: Luke Geiver Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4944 email@example.com
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Toptech Systems Releases Unified Automation Platform A user-friendly, flexible-fuel loading system that satisfies quality and reporting requirements BY JIM XANDER
On April 2, Toptech will commercially release a new automation platform unlike any other offered today. Toptech is leveraging two industry leading platforms, MultiLoad II and Toptech Data Services, to provide a hosted automation platform designed to offer un-
precedented flexibility, ease of use and simplicity. The MultiLoad II, Toptech’s flagship preset, has grown beyond the confines of the traditional preset model and now offers powerful features typically reserved for complex PC-based automation packages. Essentially, MultiLoad II serves as
the control platform to manage all of a facility’s loading processes. Each MultiLoad connects over the Internet to TDS, which is hosted within Toptech’s IT environment. TDS serves as the user interface to visualize consolidated load data, manage business data, run reports and perform inventory management and balanc-
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MARCH | APRIL 2012
ing. UAP is designed to provide an ideal automation platform for bulk plants, airports, small terminals, transload facilities, alternative fuel production and distribution plants, and refueling operations. “Toptech’s UAP combines cuttingedge technology with the power and reliability of our existing products,” says Steve Wert, director of software technologies at Toptech Systems. UAP allows users the flexibility and scalability of cloud computing in concert with the process control features of MultiLoad, Wert says, adding that the system provides best-inclass terminal automation features with unparalleled access to business information. TDS, which has historically offered lifting controls and BOL data delivery, now serves as a full-featured hosted automation platform. The benefits of this approach are many. First, a hosted platform features a number of benefits not possible with a deployed automation system. Installation and configuration are greatly simplified. Because there is no software to install on site, end users need not worry about maintaining expensive PC hardware at their facility. In fact, certain loading applications do not lend themselves to deployed software solutions simply because there may not be an ideal location to locate and install the PC hardware; transloading applications, for example. In addition, the process of software maintenance is also simplified with UAP. The complexities of installing software updates at multiple facilities are eliminated. Toptech is able to manage all software updates within its hosted environment. Furthermore, UAP customers are able to get a full-featured automation system without the typical license fees associated with deployed systems. This greatly reduces the initial investment re-
quired and makes the platform extremely appealing for smaller facilities that have typically not been able to justify the expense of implementing automation. For added flexibility, MultiLoad II has been successfully deployed with wireless connectivity options. This flexibility is required in a number of applications where MultiLoad is deployed on mobile loading platforms such as refueler trucks and transloaders. Both wireless Ethernet and cell modem options are easy to implement and allow customers to utilize MultiLoad in virtually any environment or application. UAP’s features are designed to offer attractive alternatives to the traditional automation platform. As previously noted, MultiLoad performs all of the control
functions for the loading process. This includes all preset functionality, driver validations, BOL printing and load data transmission to TDS. Further, MultiLoad will receive all database updates from TDS at configurable intervals. This means that if for any reason the Internet connection between MultiLoad and TDS is severed, MultiLoad will continue to function independent of TDS. Because MultiLoad II stores all of the database information required to perform driver validations, a severed Internet connection will not result in any impact to the loading process. When a severed connection is restored, MultiLoad will transmit all of the queued transaction data and resynch its database with TDS.
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TDS performs all of the data management, reporting, inventory management and balancing functions. In addition, a receipt reconciliation service is offered through TDS. This service provides the ability to compare metered transaction volumes as they relate to the custody transfer of product. Simply stated, this service is used to ensure the amount of product that is billed by a supplier is within tolerance when compared to the amount of product that is actually received. It’s important to note the feature set of UAP is designed to be highly modular and scalable, which means the correct features can be applied to each customer’s requirements. The result is an automation
platform that is truly tailored to the needs of a unique application. “This is exactly what the next-generation of this robust system needs to fit the new alternative fuels markets,” says Kathy West of PFT Alexander. “As biodiesel moves into airports and marine applications, facility operators need a flexible system they can rely on to meet the everchanging demanding state and federal requirements for quality and reporting. With the choices offered to size the solution to the immediate customer needs and the option for additional growth later, UAP is ideal for this market.” While the commercial release is set for April, a number of customers are al-
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ready using UAP functionality in their operations. For example, one customer is utilizing UAP to streamline processes related to its locomotive refueling operations. Most notably, this customer is utilizing the Receipt Reconciliation toolset as the primary justifier to automate its facilities. Essentially, an electronic BOL is provided to this customer for product it receives from suppliers. This electronic BOL is used to reconcile against the volume of product that is offloaded and consumed by its refueling operations. If the amount being billed is within tolerance of what it has consumed, the customer simply pays the invoice per the original BOL. If there is a shortage between what is being billed versus what is consumed, a process to reconcile this shortage with the suppler is initiated. The annual savings from this feature alone were enough to justify the ROI for the entire project. Toptech’s release of UAP is not based on the premise that the end of the era for deployed software solutions looms close on the horizon. Rather, the offering is designed to provide flexibility and scalability that extend beyond the limitations that make a deployed system impractical for many applications. In addition, the UAP feature set is designed to augment and compliment existing automation systems by offering extended features. Long-time industry innovators, Toptech’s researchers and system developers anticipate the release of UAP will usher in a new world of possibilities in improving customer operations. Author: Jim Xander Marketing Manager, Toptech Systems (407) 332-1774 Ext. 235 firstname.lastname@example.org
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March/April 2012 Biodiesel Magazine