NBB Names New Chief and Governing Board

By Steve Kopperud, SLK Strategies

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has named Donnell Rehagen as the trade group’s chief executive from a pool of nearly 300 applicants. Rehagen was appointed interim chief executive officer (CEO) in June after serving 12 years as NBB’s chief operating officer (COO) following the sudden departure of NBB’s long-time CEO Joe Jobe.

As COO, Rehagen managed the implementation and execution of the board’s budget and the day-to-day responsibility of managing NBB’s program managers, staff, and contractors. Additionally, he has led the annual National Biodiesel Conference and Expo. Prior to joining NBB in 2004, Rehagen was the fleet administrator for the Missouri Department of Transportation responsible for all aspects of the department’s $400 million fleet, including implementation of their biodiesel use program. 

Rehagen has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from Southwest Missouri State University.

NBB members also voted to fill seven board member spots: Greg Anderson, Nebraska Soybean Board; Jennifer Case, New Leaf Biofuel LLC; Mike Cunningham, ASA; Tim Keaveney, Hero BX; Steven J. Levy, Sprague Operating Resources; Mike Rath, Darling Ingredients Inc.; and Ben Wooton, World Energy.

Crimson Energy Expands California Facility

Crimson Renewable Energy recently completed a multi-million dollar plant upgrade at its ultra-low carbon biodiesel production facility in Bakersfield, California, that tripled production to 24 million gallons per year. The upgrade was partially funded by a matching grant from the California Energy Commission’s Alternative Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program and included expansion of steam and other existing systems as well as the installation of new second-generation technologies that will reduce the plant unit energy and water consumption by 10 to 15 percent. Crimson produces its biodiesel entirely from used cooking oil and other inedible oil feedstocks.

“Our current production level generates carbon reductions that are equivalent to taking 43,000 cars off California roads and as we ramp up, this will be like removing 55,500 cars,” said Harry Simpson, Crimson Energy’s chief executive officer. “The success of our facility is a prime example of why it is critical for the public and state’s policymakers to continue supporting the development of renewable transportation fuels, particularly ultra-low carbon advanced biofuels.”

New York City Ups Biodiesel Use

The City of New York has taken another significant step to reduce the region’s carbon footprint by passing legislation that incrementally displaces 20 percent of the heating oil sold within the city with cleaner-burning, sustainable biodiesel. Beginning October 1, 2017, the amount of biodiesel in the city’s heating oil will increase from the current 2 percent level to 5 percent. The blend level then moves to 10 percent in 2025, 15 percent in 2030, and 20 percent in 2034. A wide variety of organizations supported the legislation, including the heating oil industry, labor organizations, and environmental stakeholders in the city.

The increase from a 2 percent biodiesel blend to a 5 percent blend is estimated to reduce emissions equivalent to taking 45,000 cars off the road with the increase to 20 percent the equivalent of removing more than 250,000 cars.

The heating oil market is not New York’s only experience with biodiesel. In 2013, the city planned for its 9,000 diesel-powered municipal fleet vehicles to use biodiesel blends beginning with the Parks Department, which eventually moved to 20 percent biodiesel. Other departments followed, including the Department of Sanitation, which consumes 80 percent of New York City’s fleet fuel. The city has experienced a 19 percent reduction in carbon emissions since 2005 and is on track to reach an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Prison for Biodiesel Fraudsters

Fred Witmer and Gary Jury, co-owners of Triton Energy LLC and Gen2 Renewable Diesel LLC, both located in Waterloo, Indiana, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and false statements for participating in a scheme that generated over $60 million in fraudulent tax credits and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) renewable fuels credits, known as RINs. Witmer admitted to participating in a scheme with other co-conspirators to fraudulently claim tax and RIN credits on non-qualifying renewable fuel. Although the credits required that the fuel be used domestically for transportation, Witmer admitted to selling it for uses that included the production of fire starter logs and asphalt and also for power generation. Jury admitted to participating in a conspiracy to fraudulently claim tax credits and providing false statements to EPA. As part of their pleas, Witmer will serve 57 months of incarceration and Jury will serve 30 months.

In a separate case, Thomas Davanzo and Robert Fedyna, both of Florida, were sentenced to 121 months (10 years) and 135 months (11-plus years) in prison, respectively, for their part in a multi-state scheme of fraudulently selling biofuel credits and claiming tax credits. Both defendants were also ordered to forfeit gains from the conspiracy of over $46 million and other valuable items to the government.

Davanzo and Fedyna operated several entities that purported to purchase renewable fuel on which credits had been claimed and was ineligible for additional credits, produced by their co-conspirators at Gen-X Energy Group headquartered in Pasco, Washington, and its subsidiary, Southern Resources and Commodities in Dublin, Georgia. The two men then repeatedly used a series of false transactions to transform the fuel back into feedstock needed for the production of renewable fuel and sold it back to Gen-X Energy or Southern Resources, allowing credits to be claimed again.

The two men also laundered the scheme’s profits through various bank accounts to conceal proceeds and generated false paperwork in order to build a facade that the RINs created and claimed by co-conspirators were legitimate. From March 2013 to March 2014, the co-conspirators generated at least 60 million RINs that were based on fuel that was either never produced or was re-processed at the two facilities. Davanzo and Fedyna received at least $42 million from the sale of these fraudulent RINs to third parties. In addition, Gen-X Energy received about $4.3 million in false tax credits for the fuel.

REG Upgrading and Expanding

Renewable Energy Group (REG) has completed upgrades to its Danville, Illinois, biorefinery, and broken ground on expanding its Ralston, Iowa, facility.

The $34.5 million in enhancements at the Danville plant added biodiesel distillation and other manufacturing upgrades that will allow the 45 million-gallon-per-year capacity biorefinery to use a wider array of lower carbon intensity feedstocks. The two-year project included logistical improvements such as an additional truck loadout, new warehouse and office space, and the acquisition and integration of approximately 13 million gallons of biofuel and feedstock storage from the neighboring Bunge facility, which will improve year-round production and storage capabilities at REG Danville and within its logistics system. REG also acquired property around the plant complex to increase its footprint from eight acres to nearly 30.

REG held a groundbreaking ceremony in November to launch a $24 million expansion of its Ralston biorefinery built in 2001 from 12 million to 30 million gallons of annual production capacity. The project will also include logistics improvements and other site enhancements. Once completed, the Ralston expansion will increase REG’s cumulative nameplate capacity from its 11 active biomass-based diesel plants across the country to 470 million gallons annually.

San Diego Uses Renewable Diesel

The City of San Diego in California has begun using Neste renewable diesel in its vehicle fleet of service trucks, refuse packers, dump trucks, construction equipment, and street sweepers. The city joins at least five other California municipal fleets in using Neste renewable diesel.

The switch from petroleum diesel to Neste’s waste oil-based renewable diesel reduces the San Diego fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent, according to Neste, contributing to the city’s ambitious climate targets. Over 1,100 vehicles and equipment representing about 25 percent of the city’s fleet will run on renewable diesel.

December 2016 RENDER | back