Additive Adjustment

Texas producers face the possibility that biodiesel sales in parts of the state will become illegal. With the second stay of execution on the Texas Low Emission Diesel program set to expire in December, an additive that meets current requirements for 20 percent biodiesel blends and lower got a Texas-sized thumbs up. However, concerns over the extra cost and time it takes to use the additive could be a hindrance.
By Lindsey Irwin | April 25, 2007
Biodiesel's acceptance in some areas of Texas has been tenuous due to the requirements of the Texas Low Emission Diesel (TxLED) program implemented in October 2005. Two years ago, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) set out to combat nitrogen oxide (NOx) in the state's densely populated 110-county eastern region, including the metropolitan areas of Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. TxLED was developed to be a regulatory standard for diesel fuel that would reduce smog and its associated health problems. The result was the requirement that all fuel sold in those areas contain a minimum cetane number of 48 and an aromatic hydrocarbon cap of 10 percent by volume. Biodiesel meets these requirements, but because it's blended with diesel fuel, the TCEQ chose to categorize it as an additive, thus rendering its high cetane number and low aromatic content irrelevant.

The TCEQ's decision to ban the sale of biodiesel was based on data gathered by the U.S. EPA from stationary engine dynamometer tests conducted in the 1990s that showed biodiesel slightly increased NOx emissions. The test results have caused consternation among biodiesel proponents who argue that recent research more accurately profiles biodiesel's emissions. In late 2006, Robert McCormick, a scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, released a technical report indicating that B20's NOx output is similar to that of diesel fuel when chassis dynamometers were used. McCormick used chassis dynamometers because some experts consider it a better representation of real-world duty cycles and loads of certain diesel applications, such as transit or school buses as opposed to long-haul tractor trailers. Shortly after TxLED was implemented, the TCEQ placed a stay of execution on the TxLED mandate to give the U.S. EPA, TCEQ and the Biodiesel Coalition of Texas (BCOT) a chance to work toward finding a solution for the state's biodiesel dilemma. In December 2006, the stay was extended for another year because there had not yet been a TxLED approved fuel additive to help reduce NOx emissions-that is until recently.

Compliance Option
In early March, the TCEQ did something it had never done before. It issued its first certification for a biodiesel fuel additive that is proven to reduce NOx emissions levels of B20 and lower blends to within TxLED standards. Oryxe Energy International Inc. of Irvine, Calif., a fuel-performance additive producer, successfully developed Oryxe LED for Biodiesel. The additive is a specialized version of its TxLED additive for regular petroleum diesel that was approved by the TCEQ in 2005 for blending to reduce NOx emissions. The new biodiesel-specific additive was run at a slightly higher treat rate to cut out any increase in NOx from the biodiesel portion of the fuel, Oryxe Chairman and CEO James Cleary says. In addition to reducing NOx, the additive has reduced particulate matter by 28 percent, total hydrocarbons by 17.5 percent and carbon monoxide by 19 percent beyond the required TxLED levels. Like biodiesel, Oryxe's additive is biodegradable and nontoxic. "We are concerned-like a lot of people in Texas-with the NOx question, which is the whole basis for the TxLED program to begin with," Cleary says. "We think our additive is a very cost-effective victory for everybody to remove NOx from the table as a discussion."

Oryxe was started in 2001 by Fred Jordan and his son Chris. At that time, Fred Jordan had more than 25 years experience with research and development in the field of combustion science. From the beginning, Oryxe's mission has been to improve the health of the environment through the use of innovative additive technologies for fossil fuel producers that result in cleaner, more efficient fuels. The first patents that Oryxe received were for products that can be blended with petroleum diesel, but the focus on developing additives for renewable fuels, such as biodiesel has also been a company goal.

Oryxe LED for biodiesel is injected at the load point at the same time the biodiesel is flowing from the biodiesel tank into trucks. It's basically instantaneous with no time lost adding an extra step in the blending process, Cleary says. The cost of Oryxe's product is confidential but a biodiesel blend can be treated "literally for pennies on the gallon," he says.

In order to gain approval for Oryxe's biodiesel fuel additive, the company presented a protocol to the TCEQ and suggested methods for testing. Research was conducted at the University of West Virginia's (UWV) National Center for Alternative Transportation Fuels, Engines and Emissions. First, a reference fuel was tested and an emissions profile was compiled. Then the Oryxe candidate fuel containing the biodiesel additive was tested and the two emission profiles were compared. All research was supervised by a TCEQ-selected individual and a results report was prepared by UWV scientists, which was sent to the TCEQ and the EPA for final approval, Cleary says. Once successful, Oryxe was issued a certification.

The certification was not only monumental for Oryxe, but also for the TxLED program, says Morris Brown, leader of the TCEQ Air Quality Planning and Monitoring Team. There are other formulations in the approval pipeline, but Oryxe was the first and is the only TCEQ-approved formulation at this time, he says. "This is a kind of milestone for our program to finally have a biodiesel formulation approved for B20 or less," Morris says. As far as what effect this additive will have in December when the stay of execution expires, that's up to TCEQ commissioners, Morris says. A number of things could happen. "This basically means that now there is an option for compliance in the TxLED program for biodiesel producers outside of the alternative emission reduction plan provisions," he says.

Issues Remain
Despite all of the seemingly rosy characteristics of Oryxe's new product, the additive hasn't received a warm welcome from Texas-based biodiesel producers. Many are still crossing their fingers in hopes that either the TCEQ will reverse its decision about biodiesel blends or that the Texas legislature will intervene. Then there are others who aren't really concerned about the possibility of having to additize. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," one producer tells Biodiesel Magazine. In the meantime, there could be adverse effects on the state's economy if biodiesel blend sales become illegal in the 110 counties affected by the TxLED standard. Some biodiesel producers say they would simply sell to out-of-state customers rather than be forced to blend additives with their fuel.

Kelly King, marketing and communications director for Pacific Biodiesel, says that would be contrary to the company's strategy of building plants near its end users, which are typically in the same state, if not in the same community. Pacific Biodiesel operates a 2 MMgy plant in Carl's Corner, Texas, about 60 miles southwest of Dallas. "It's unfortunate that we are spending our time on additives that address the issue of a potential small increase in one type of emission," King says. "The real issue is the need for an acceptance and better understanding of the benefits of sustainably produced biodiesel."

In order to continue the growth of the biodiesel industry in east Texas, two things have to happen: a continuation of the Texas Biofuel Producer's Incentive and coordination between the EPA and the TCEQ, King says. That would eliminate concerns that Texas will be the first state in the nation to force additives on the biodiesel market, which would greatly inhibit the growth of the industry. It's the cost associated with additives that would put the price per gallon of biodiesel at a disadvantage compared with petroleum diesel, King says.

The BCOT also believes there are other avenues for biodiesel to take besides forced additizing, but as a representative organization of the biodiesel producers in the state its first and foremost goal is to ensure that biodiesel can be used under the TxLED program, says Jenny Ligums, BCOT vice president of external affairs. Currently, the BCOT is working with the TCEQ and the National Biodiesel Board to try to help TCEQ gain comfort with biodiesel and its properties as a fuel, Ligums says. At the urging of the BCOT, the TCEQ will consider the results of a collaborative biodiesel testing effort that is currently underway between the EPA and the U.S. DOE, Morris says. Although he's unsure how far along the project is, it was expected to take anywhere between 18 and 24 months to complete. The TCEQ has also received a proposal from the BCOT to extend the expiration date of the alternative emission reduction plan, which is up for consideration for adoption May 9, Morris says.

While the future of Oryxe's additive with Texas producers is unsure, the city of Dallas became the company's first customer not more than a month after oryxe LED for Biodiesel was certified. The city's fleet already runs on vegetable-oil-based biodiesel, but city officials decided to take it a step further because of the ozone pollution problem in north Texas, according to Ramiro Lopez, who oversees fuel and environmental services for the Department of Equipment and Building Services in Dallas. The biodiesel additive has also attracted interest from other states, Cleary says. "We've heard from the California Air Resources Board and we've done some work in the state of California," he says. Within the United States, Cleary says he has received calls from entities in the Midwest, East and South, as well as a request for proposals for competitive business bids in a number of places around the world. Most of the international interest originates in places where there is a preponderance of diesel-powered cars-Latin America, Asia, the Asian subcontinent and India.

Meanwhile, deep in the heart of Texas, the work to determine a conclusive stance on biodiesel continues. "We believe in the quality and the properties of the fuel," Ligums says. "We believe there are many paths forward and additives are one of them. Obviously, we don't believe that we need to additize the fuel at this point, but we are working through the data."

Lindsey Irwin is an Biodiesel Magazine staff writer. Reach her at lirwin@bbibiofuels.com or (701) 746-8385.
 
 
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