New Generation debuts emulsified oil-based biofuel

By Susanne Retka Schill | April 15, 2009
With its first 5 MMgy production facility now operational in Baltimore, New Generation Biofuels Holdings Inc. is seeking customers for its unique biofuel using emulsification technology. "Until we had our plant up and running it was difficult to convince a utility customer that we could be a reliable supplier," said CEO Cary Claiborne to investors in a mid-March call.

It was the first opportunity for Claiborne to answer questions about the company's progress in his new position as CEO, stepping up from chief financial officer to replace former CEO David Gillespie. Claiborne will also continue the duties of CFO in one of several cost containment measures the company is taking. Claiborne told investors employees have agreed to take equity compensation in place of 30 percent of their cash compensation as part of cost-cutting efforts.

The company is targeting power generation, commercial and industrial boilers and generators as potential users. As production ramped up and customer test burns were successfully completed, the company announced new contracts. The latest at press time was with Catoctin Mountain Growers Inc., in Keymar, Md., for a contract to supply up to 370,000 gallons to heat 12 acres of greenhouses. That contract followed days after a 371,000 gallon year-long contract with Baltimore-based Delta Chemical Corp. Earlier, New Generation announced sales agreements with power producer Dynegy Inc. to supply 1.7 MMgy and Taunton (Mass.) State Hospital for 220,000 gallons annually.

The company is encouraged by the growing interest. Kim Johnson, power generation sales representative said one example of this was when a utility company that followed up quickly after a test burn requesting a news release and meeting. "It was them wanting to do the news release – not us," Johnson said. She also expects increased interest with the growing expectation that carbon legislation is coming under the Obama Administration and Democratic Congress. "This could be a very significant market for us," she said.

New Generation's biofuel combines vegetable oil with water and proprietary additives to form a stable emulsion. Emissions tests with the biofuel have shown significant reductions in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions – a 40 percent reduction compared to petroleum fuels in power generation and boiler applications. Sulfur oxide emissions drop to near zero. David Wright, vice president product development, explained the water content in the fuel gives the advantage in NOx performance. "Because of the water our peak combustion temperatures are lower," he said. In one test burn, sulfur levels in the mid-50 parts per million when using low sulfur diesel were dropped to zero. The water also contributes to a lower Btu content.

New Generation holds the North American, Central American and Caribbean license for the emulsion technology developed in Italy by inventors Ferdinando Petrucci and Andrea Festuccia. "Emulsions are the combination of products that are normally immiscible," explained Festuccia, New Generation's chief technology officer. "A combination of vegetable oil, recycled vegetable oil or animal fats, water and the proprietary formulation of surfactants produces a renewable biofuel that can be used as a replacement for diesel and fuel oils without the need for engine modification." The manufacturing process is low energy, produces no byproducts and is feedstock neutral. The necessary tanks and mixing equipment require a relatively small footprint, have comparatively low capital requirements and can be built quickly. On Sept. 15, New Generation secured a site at the port location of Atlantic Terminaling in Baltimore, and by early February the 5 MMgy plant was operating on the 5,000-square-foot site. The plant can be expanded to 50 MMgy.

The emulsified biofuel has properties that make it different than both a straight vegetable oil and biodiesel. Compared to straight vegetable oil, Festuccia said New Generation's biofuel has improved viscosity at different temperatures, excellent emission performance, better atomization and combustion properties, and a lower pour point. That lower pour point of minus 21 degrees Celsius is one of the more dramatic differences compared to biodiesel. In addition, Festuccia said the New Generation biofuel is stable and doesn't have solvent effects on the gaskets and piping involved in power plants or boilers. Also, without a chemical reaction to form the fuel, New Generation's biofuel creates no byproducts.

Presently, the company is using a straight feedstock such as straight soy oil or straight waste vegetable oil, adjusting the additives to meet quality specifications. Future work will be done on feedstock blends, Wright said. Customers mainly use the biofuel uncut, he added. Future work will be done to evaluate performance on blends with other liquid fuels. The fuel was successfully tested in Italy in passenger diesel engines, but will need further performance tests in the heavy duty diesel engines used in the U.S.
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