THE FEEDSTOCK ISSUE

By Ron Kotrba | May 27, 2014

The biodiesel industry has long been considered limited in growth on many fronts, a major one being the amount of available fats, oils and greases (FOG) to produce the fuel. Detractors use this to marginalize biodiesel to merely a diesel fuel additive rather than a blend stock or replacement alternative for diesel. Their argument is, as biodiesel grows, feedstock markets become tight and prices rise, causing production to be uneconomical while affecting other markets relying on FOG. But in 2013, we witnessed an interesting phenomenon, as U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel production soared to a record-shattering 1.8 billion gallons. Moreover, in the latter half of the year, the U.S. was producing biomass-based diesel at an annualized run rate of closer to 2.4 billion gallons, an impressive accomplishment for an industry that struggled just three years ago to produce 315 million gallons. Instead of this applying upward pressure on feedstock prices, however, we saw feedstock prices go down.


In our featured article on page 20, “The Myth & Reality of Biodiesel Feedstock Availability,” several important points are made. One is that the commercial development of next-generation feedstocks will not be realized unless industries, in this case, biodiesel, continue to demand supplies of first-generation feedstocks. As Gene Gebolys, founder of World Energy Alternatives and chair of the National Biodiesel Board’s RFS working group, tells me, “There are folks out there who want to make innovation in feedstock the enemy of our current capabilities, and that’s really foolish,” he says. “There’s a lot of talk about foregoing first-generation biofuels for next-generation biofuels, and the most certain way to kill next-generation biofuels is to take a pause in current-generation biofuels.” Another takeaway message from the article is that the biodiesel industry has come nowhere near its limits in terms of how much FOG it can absorb in order to grow in a responsible, sustainable manner.


Our feedstock coverage doesn’t stop there though. In “Time Has Come Today,” on page 26, we discuss the decision-making process of pioneers in the ethanol sector who have pulled the trigger on contracting with biodiesel technology providers to manufacture biodiesel from their distillers corn oil on site. Also, NBB’s Don Scott and Alan Weber author this issue’s Talking Point column, “A True Masterpiece: Feedstock Diversity and Biodiesel’s Carbon Story,” on page 7.  Fredrikson & Byron’s Todd Taylor also hits our feedstock theme with his Legal Perspective column, “Sustainable Feedstock Contracts,” on page 6. Finally, Erik Anderson with Superior Process Technologies discusses glycerolysis of low-cost feedstocks in “The Chemical Kinetics of Glycerolysis,” on page 32. Thanks to all of our contributing writers—and our advertisers—for making this issue possible!

 
 
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