Tallow Feedstock of Choice in Biodiesel Projects

By Tina Caparella

Tallow and waste cooking oils continue to be feedstocks of choice for a number of biodiesel projects, whether producing or using it in locomotives.

AB Bioenergy, LLC, was one of 13 recipients selected for more than $16.5 million in grants and loans from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act awarded by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The company received a $1.4 million loan and a $600,000 grant toward its biodiesel facility that will use as feedstock tallow and waste cooking grease from its Toppenish, WA, plant and from other local livestock processors throughout Washington and Idaho. The company received the funding in the “waste-to-energy” category.

While an exact location and specifications of the facility are still being decided, AB Bioenergy plans to break ground later this year and begin production in the spring of 2011. The project is expected to create 16 new jobs. AB Bioenergy is part of the AgriBeef Co. business operations.

Other recovery act fund recipients include Gen-X Energy Group, Inc., which received a $720,000 grant to support construction of the first unit of a biodiesel refinery in Richland, WA. Rainier Biogas, LLC, received a $974,750 loan and a $417,750 grant towards its anaerobic digester project that will process dairy manure from over 1,000 cows at three dairy farms to produce 3,582 megawatts of “bio-power,” enough to service over 300 area homes.

Amtrak to Test Tallow-based Biodiesel in Train

Amtrak and the Oklahoma and Texas state transportation departments have launched the nation’s first-ever test of a biodiesel blend to power a daily interstate passenger train between Oklahoma City, OK, and Fort Worth, TX, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the use of foreign oil.

Amtrak received a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to carry out the research project in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation on the daily Heartland Flyer train operated by Amtrak with state support from both Oklahoma and Texas. The biodiesel supplier is Direct Fuels of Euless, TX, which uses tallow from Texas beef processors as its feedstock.

The Heartland Flyer will operate exclusively on a 20 percent biodiesel blend (B20) for approximately 12 months. Amtrak will take detailed measurements on the P32-8 locomotive at the end of the year-long project to determine biodiesel’s impact on valves and gaskets. The company will also collect locomotive exhaust emissions data for analysis in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency test protocols. Previously conducted stationary locomotive engine testing showed a B20 blend reduced hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide each by 10 percent, reduced particulates by 15 percent, and sulfates by 20 percent.

“Amtrak travel is already more energy efficient than most other forms of intercity transportation,” said Roy Deitchman, Amtrak vice president, Environmental, Health, and Safety. “If the test shows this use of a renewable fuel in our locomotive is successful, it’s a home run for our passengers, for our partners, and for the planet.” The Heartland Flyer uses about 100,000 gallons of diesel per year.

Alberta Invests Heavily In Bioenergy

To promote more clean energy production, the Alberta government in Canada is expanding and extending an incentive program for producers of bioenergy products. Funding under the Bioenergy Producer Credit Program is extended until 2016. The program will help Alberta meet its climate change targets by reducing emissions while also providing value-added opportunities and long-term stability to Alberta’s agriculture and forestry industries. The program provides incentives to develop a wide variety of bioenergy products including fuels, power, and heat that will support the Renewable Fuels Standard to be implemented in April 2011. Specifically, the program will encourage development of new technologies and facilities that use non-food crops, waste biomass, or wood.

The Renewable Fuels Standard establishes benchmarks for five percent renewable fuel in gasoline and two percent renewable fuel in diesel fuel. As a result of this standard, production and consumption of renewable fuels in Alberta is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about one million tons annually, equivalent to removing 200,000 cars from Alberta roads.

DOE Invests Millions for Biofuels User Facility

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will build an advanced biofuels process development facility aimed at speeding the commercialization of advanced biofuels by allowing researchers and the private sector to test and integrate innovative technologies.

The Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit (PDU), funded with nearly $18 million from the Recovery Act, will be a publicly available facility where researchers can integrate process steps and test technology pathways. Planned capabilities include unique pretreatment of biomass, enzyme production, fermentation for the production of multiple biofuels, and product purification in quantities sufficient for engine testing at partner institutions.

The PDU is scheduled to be fully operational by early 2011, and multiple possible sites for the facility are now being considered in the San Francisco, CA, East Bay region.

The DOE’s Biomass Program has awarded nearly $718 million in Recovery Act funds to accelerate the commercialization of advanced biofuels and foster the growth of a sustainable U.S. bio-industry. These investments will facilitate the bio-industry’s ability to meet mandated production requirements for advanced biofuels, which increase from 950 million gallons per year in 2010 to 21 billion gallons per year in 2022.

Springboard Biodiesel CEO Wins Award

Mark Roberts, chief executive officer (CEO), Springboard Biodiesel, was honored with the Innovator of the Year Award by the Chico Chamber of Commerce, Chico, CA. He received the recognition for his work in promoting small- to mid-scale biodiesel production both locally and nationally.

Springboard Biodiesel manufactures and sells small-scale, fully-automated biodiesel processors. The company is preparing to release a fully integrated, multi-feedstock processing system this summer that will allow operators to make ASTM International-grade biodiesel from the lowest-cost feedstocks.

University Biodiesel Testing Lab Opens

The University of Connecticut Biodiesel Testing Laboratory, housed within the school’s Center for Environmental Science and Engineering (CESE), opened in April to provide biodiesel producers another testing option to ensuring their fuel meets ASTM International specifications.

In 2009, the university received a $600,000 grant from the state of Connecticut to help establish the testing laboratory. Anthony Provatas, a research scientist at CESE who does the testing, receives two to three samples per week of biodiesel from around the state and the country. He performs 14 different tests to examine physical and chemical properties and ensure the fuel meets national standards. If a sample fails a test, university scientists provide extra in-house service to help troubleshoot the fuel suppliers’ process.

A benefit for those clients who use the university’s new lab is price – Connecticut companies can get the same testing they get at a commercial lab for a discount of 75 to 80 percent, creating an incentive for individuals to set up their biofuels companies in the state. CESA Director Mike Willig says the university’s lab doesn’t intend to supplant the more expensive testing companies, but rather help to jump-start the biofuels business and aim to create a culture of trust for the new alternative fuel.

“We’re assuring the public that there are high standards associated with the production of biodiesel, and that it is as reliable and as useful as any fuel,” he commented. “This is a quality fuel that the public can use in their homes or cars without worries.”

Wisconsin Renewable Fuels Bill Becomes Law

Wisconsin has a new law on the books that is designed to encourage the development, production, and use of renewable fuels in the state.

Senate Bill 279, signed by Governor Jim Doyle on May 18, 2010, organizes the way biofuels research and development is managed in the state, streamlines the regulatory burdens faced by manufacturers and retailers, and sets realistic benchmarks for the biofuels industry.

Specifically, the bill expands state programs to support the establishment, production, harvest, storage, and transport of bioenergy feedstocks. The measure also specifies that the state’s renewable energy grant and loan program applies to bio-refineries in general, rather than just cellulose ethanol plants. The legislation also calls for the creation of a bioenergy advisory council to study and report voluntary best management practices for sustainable biomass and biofuels production.

Biofuels Bulletin – June 2010 RENDER | back