NBB Buzz: Heard on the floor at the 2014 Biodiesel Convention

January 23, 2014 |

NBBSo, NBB packs it up and the delegates go home. What are the trends — what’s are the takeaways?

The Digest’s overall take — and items heard on the floor this week.

In California, NBB is now officially over. Key trends? We saw four.

1. In general, traffic and spirits were down from previous years. The RFS debate has a lot of people staying at home and “keeping the powder dry.” There’s general concern that the rise of low-cost natural gas has substantially weakened the energy security and emissions legs that hold up the renewable fuels stool.

2. Renewable diesel is hot, as is diversification of all kinds, especially in feedstock but also in downstream molecules. Just look at RG’s acquisition of LS9.

3. California is hot. Strong biodiesel opportunities in the Golden State buoyed spirits throughout the week.

4. B20 acceptance is growing — potentially pushing back future “blend wall” issues for years.

And, here are the items we heard buzzing on the floor.

Blending renewable diesel with jet fuel

Green Air Online is reporting that Boeing is considering an option to blend green diesel with jet fuel — thereby accessing a ready supply of biofuels. More than 700 million gallons of green diesel capacity exists between Neste Oil’s capacity in Rotterdam, Singapore and Finland — and the Diamond Green Diesel and Dynamic Fuels plants in Louisiana. Boeing said that the FAA among others are working on certifying the fuel. Boeing also noted that — with existing fuel incentives — green diesel is cost-competitive with petroleum-based jet fuel.

Update on PETRO

ARPA-E’s Jonathan Burbaum was on hand to discuss the PETRO project, which aims to develop a plant’s capacity to accumulate significant amounts of oil in its leaf structure — as a opposed to just the oilseeds. “We’re combining many advanced traits — taken from different research projects. The idea is to pull together all the traits and stack them in one plant, such as camelina. And if we could export those traits to C4 grasses, then we could see as much as 5X more oil content per acre compared to today.

“A group of Australian researchers have reported that they have been able to concentrate as much as 16% oil content, by weight, in tobacco. So we’re adding traits, for example, for CO2 uptake, to lighten the leaves to spread light energy more evenly through plants. Now, tobacco per acre yields, for example, aren’t suitable today for energy production. But we’ve also seen that you could increase tobacco per-acre yields by up to 7X if you planted for biomass density.”

80 bushels per acre for soybeans?

Beth Calabotta of Monsanto says it’s just a matter of time. There has been discussion of doubling soybean yields by 2030 and Calabotta says that that the science will be there, but it is all a question of how soon. “Today, the winner of the soybean yield contest is getting 120 bushels per acre, so we know it can be done. But can it be done economically, and on broad acreage — that’s the key. It also will come down to grower practices. After all, anyone with a houseplant knows that you can have the most wonderful plant in the world but if you don’t water it, it will die. Growers have a key role to play in terms of taking new hybrids and finding the right ways to cultivate them.

Futures contracting for key biodiesel feedstocks?

Corn oil, tallow, greases trading at the Chicago Board of Trade? Don’t hold your breath, warns Joe Riley of FEC Solutions. “The volume is just not there for greases and tallow, and there’s just no indication that the kind of volume needed would be there for corn oil”

Indirect Land Use Change – light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the most persistent critiques of Indirect Land Use Change — calculated and added to a given biofuel pathway’s carbon intensity — is that the databases measuring ILUC are forced to use data collected before the signing of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the explosion of biofuels. In fact, Purdue’s GTAP database uses 2004 data. Turns out that the National Biodiesel Foundation is active in efforts to raise funds to update the database through 2011. So that ILUC can be run off at least some data that reflects real-world effects measured during the period when biofuels have been active.

What’s happening in Canada?

Ian Thompson of the Western Canada Biodiesel Association gave an update on the incentives and markets in Canada. “Incentives include a $0.13/liter credit tin Saskatchewan that sunsets in 2016 and is limited to the first 5 million gallons of production, and a $0.14/liter credit in Manitoba that sunsets in 2015. In British Columbia, there is much emphasis on the Pacific Coast Collaborative, a cross-border group including US states and Canadian provinces,. In Alberta, there is a RFS review expected in 2014. In Orntario, an RFS proposal is on the table for consideration in 2014, and in Quebec there is RFS discussion, along with officials looking at a Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

“The diesel market in Canada divides up as follows: 29 percent, Ontario; 22 percernt Quebec; 23 percent Alberta; 11 percent, British Columbia; 4 percent, Saskatchewan; 2 percent, Manitoba; 11 percent, the rest of Canada.”

REG on the move

We noticed quite a lot of activity on the floor from REG. Perhaps the most interesting — the amount of interaction between South Americans and REG staff. Is REG looking down south for long-term expansion options?

Fmr Sen. Byron Dorgan and Fmr. Congressman Kenny Hulsof on defending the RFS


The EPA’s proposal on biodiesel volumes for 2014 — it’s inexplicable to me. The Obama Administration knows they are below what they should be. We should celebrate not penalize success. The Administration ought to say ‘go for more!’ Biodiesel and renewable fuels are winners. You’re not asking for help — you are asking for an opportunity to do what you know we can do. As far as the tax credit, it’s sad that those running a business cant rely on credits, that we have this stutter and stop. These should be done in 3-5 year increments to give certainty.


Obama has been an ardent supporter of renewable energy and biofuels. To me, it looks like biodiesel has caught shrapnel in a debate between ethanol and certain moneyed interests. But you have the power of the vote. Gat involved in the comment process. And see you member. You canb’t just rely on DC, you have to use your power as a constituent. Everybody ought to have a comment in by January 28, and you can show up somewhere where your congressman is going to be. And say this:

“Look, I invested. I am at risk because of our success. This is affecting our livelihood. You’ve always supported us. I need you to get active.”

Especially, there’s an education effort with the new members not around in the 2005 and 2007 policy debate. They’ll tell you that Congress shouldn’t pick winners and losers — let the market do that. But Adam Smith left the building long ago, as far as energy is concerned. Just because we are in a different spot with oil and gas — and we thought demand would increase more than it has — we still need diversification.

The NBB Eye on Biodiesel Awards

This year, the NBB gave its Eye on Biodiesel Awards to:

Impact: The California Air Resources Board.

“The State of California continues to serve as a national and world leader in regulations related to environmental sustainability, and the California Air Resources Board is at the heart of those efforts. In January of 2010, Air Resources Board staff successfully implemented the first ever market-oriented carbon reduction policy for transportation fuels, a policy known as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Since that time, use and production of biodiesel and other renewable fuels has increased significantly. Californians have since enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air, growth in green jobs, and increased fuel diversity.”

Innovation: General Motors, the B20-Approved Chevrolet Cruze.

“General Motors continues to be a leading biodiesel supporter among Original Equipment Manufacturers. This year the company took another step forward introducing the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel – the first light-duty diesel passenger sedan in the U.S. to be fully approved for use with B20 biodiesel blends. The Cruze’s new ECOTEC 2.0L Turbocharged Diesel engine powered by ultra-low sulfur biodiesel blends provides tailpipe emissions as clean as or cleaner than natural gas and gasoline, while providing superior performance and industry-leading fuel economy of over 46 MPG highway. The Chevy Cruze is the cleanest diesel passenger car model ever produced by General Motors, and with the use of clean, renewable B20, it’s also now the greenest.”

Industry Partnership: Kirk Leeds, Iowa Soybean Association.

“Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, has been a leader among soybean organizations in supporting biodiesel efforts since the industry’s inception. ISA’s support of the National Biodiesel Board over the years has allowed the industry to prepare and face the challenges of being a billion-plus-gallon Advanced Biofuel. His visionary leadership has helped to maintain a mutually-beneficial, strong connection between the soybean and biodiesel industries. Kirk and ISA have been at the forefront of improving agriculture’s environmental performance. Through partnerships with farmers, environmental groups, agri-business and academia, ISA is helping lead efforts to identify practical solutions for complex environmental issues.”

Inspiration: Len Hering, RADM, USN, California Center for Sustainable Energy.

“Rear Admiral Len Hering, Sr. (USN, retired), is a prominent military and civilian sustainability leader instrumental in bringing B20 to naval bases. In his 32 years of Navy service he was known as a top expert in base operations and facility support with an emphasis on sustainability. His efforts included everything from renewable energy, including biodiesel, to responsible water use, photovoltaic technology, and conservation. Within three years, his team reduced energy consumption by nearly 42 percent, diverted 75 percent of Navy waste from landfills and reduced water consumption by more than one billion gallons, saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. President Bush awarded Hering a 2005 Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management. Today he serves as executive director of the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

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