Minnesota passes B20 mandate

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 17, 2008
In May 2009, Minnesota will boost its biodiesel blend requirement from B2 to B5 as it phases into a recently passed mandate that calls for B20 by 2015. Signed into law in May 2008 by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the legislation not only mandates increasing amounts of biodiesel in the state's diesel pool, but also incorporates a flexible blending schedule and funding for research.

"The final legislation incorporates many of the ideas that Minnesota's biodiesel producers requested as part of the governor's Biodiesel Task Force," said Chuck Neece, chairman of the Minnesota Biodiesel Council. He is also director of research and development for FUMPA Biofuels, the state's first biodiesel plant, and was one of several on the task force charged with devising a plan to ramp up the state's biodiesel consumption after Pawlenty announced his proposed mandate increase in August 2007. Minnesota was the first state to require a biodiesel blend with its B2 mandate that took effect in September 2005.

The latest mandate calls for biodiesel blends to increase in stages, starting with 5 percent May 1, 2009; 10 percent May 1, 2012; and 20 percent May 1, 2015. The 10 percent and 20 percent blends are mandated for seven months of the year, from April through October, with a fallback to B5 during the winter months. "We hope to see technology in the future that can help with the B20 blends during our Minnesota winters," said Lance Peterson, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and member of the task force.

Recognizing the volatility in the market and the need for further infrastructure improvements, the ramp-up in biodiesel blends isn't automatic. "There is well-thought-out, built-in flexibility," Neece said. The new law includes an approval process before moving to higher blends, which will allow all stakeholders-including legislators, state agencies, end users, consumers and biodiesel producers-to gauge the economic, supply and environmental impacts before moving to a higher blend. "We want to be sure we don't disadvantage our fuel providers in Minnesota if we have a large price disparity," Peterson said.

The national furor over the impact biofuels have on food supply and global warming is also reflected in the bill's provisions. The legislation requires that 5 percent of the mandated biodiesel comes from nonfood feedstocks, such as algae, waste oils, tallow, and someday even cuphea and industrial hazelnuts that are currently being researched in the state. The legislation includes funds for algae research at the University of Minnesota and a carbon footprint study.

The legislation also addresses quality assurance by requiring that all biodiesel exceeds federal ASTM specifications.

The new mandate also benefits the state's economy by requiring that 50 percent of the biodiesel be produced in Minnesota. The state's current biodiesel production capacity exceeds 64 MMgy, more than enough to meet the 5 percent mandate that would require approximately 40 million gallons, according to the Minnesota Biodiesel Council.
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