By Ron Kotrba | May 01, 2013

Where is the additional feedstock to meet growing biodiesel demand going to come from? All of us in the biodiesel business have heard this question, and it’s a legitimate one. With forecasts indicating that one of the largest soybean crop plantings in U.S. history may be underway right now, as Nate Burk, risk management consultant with INTL FCStone, suggests in his article on page 30, “The New World of Biodiesel Feedstocks,” short-term supply to satisfy greater biodiesel demand may indeed come from additional vegetable oil stocks. As crushes increase, however, and more protein meals become available for animal feed, keeping meal prices lower, livestock producers have encouragement to produce more head, increasing animal fat supplies, thereby increasing more available feedstock for biodiesel production.

There is no one place from which the greater supplies of feedstock will come, but rather many. This is what’s so great about biodiesel. Camelina, which can be intercropped with food-based crops, has an established pathway under the renewable fuel standard now. Also, the success of distillers corn oil (DCO) as a growing biodiesel feedstock is evident. Its use by biodiesel producers nearly doubled in 2012 over 2011, and as more ethanol plants outfit to spin—almost a requirement to maintain profitability during tough times in the ethanol industry—expect that number to continue increasing.About 571 million pounds of DCO was used last year for biodiesel production, only about 22 percent of the available supply if all ethanol plants today were spinning at the industry average. In addition to the myriad of nonfood crops under development (e.g., algae, jatropha, etc.), wastes such as spent coffee grounds can play a big role in diversifying our energy mix. We first heard about the potential for used coffee grounds in 2008. Used grounds contain 11 to 20 percent oil, and experts suggest the potential for 340 MMgy of biodiesel globally from this waste. Check out my article on page 26, “Utah’s Young Biodiesel Phenom,” about high school sophomore Zerina Ocanovic who has won multiple awards and a major scholarship for her work in making biodiesel from oils she extracted from algae that she grew, and from used coffee grounds. It’s a positive story that exemplifies the youthful possibilities and ingenuity of this great industry.

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