Small-scale biodiesel successes from coast to coast

Two community-scale producers, one in South Carolina and the other in California, find success in troubling times
By Ron Kotrba | April 23, 2014

“Bio” Joe Renwick, co-founder of Midlands Biofuels, called me yesterday—on Earth Day—to share some great news. Midlands Biofuels is a community-scale biodiesel producer in Winnsboro, S.C., and “Bio” Joe tells me they have just won the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) 2013 Outstanding Business of the Year “Spare the Air” Award.

The purpose of the Spare the Air Award is to recognize environmental leaders that have made a voluntary commitment to promote and practice air quality improvement in South Carolina. Those nominated, according to DHEC, should demonstrate continuous environmental improvement through such practices as energy conservation, behavioral modifications, and other strategies to improve air quality.

The goals of the award are to promote a healthier environment through air quality initiatives that are sustainable and replicable; to educate, build awareness, and motivate others to make better decisions about the environment through air quality improvements; to encourage positive behavioral changes that improve air quality; and to strengthen and build partnerships with businesses, organizations and the citizens of South Carolina to improve air quality.

“Bio” Joe says Midlands Biofuels is scheduled to hold a press conference today at the plant.

Previous recipients of the award include Boeing and Bosch, “Bio” Joe says.

Another great milestone for Midlands Biofuels is that in first quarter of this year—a time when many plants have slowed production due to the lapse of the $1-per-gallon federal tax credit and the uncertainties with the U.S. EPA’s renewable volume obligations under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) for this year and next—Midlands has achieved its highest production numbers to date.

Congratulations Midlands Biofuels and “Bio” Joe!

Clear across the country in Chico, Calif., biodiesel equipment maker Springboard Biodiesel is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new, 1,000-gallon-per-day biodiesel production facility on May 1 at 5:30 p.m.  

Known for its small-scale biodiesel processing systems (the BioPro), sales of which approach 1,000 units over the past six years, Springboard Biodiesel announced nearly two months ago its launch of a local biodiesel buyers club for individuals and companies in the Butte County area. Springboard received a grant from the California Energy Commission that gave the company the opportunity to design and build a new, larger biodiesel production facility in Chico.

“With the help of the CEC and countless organizations in and around Butte County, Springboard is ready to produce ASTM-grade biodiesel in its new, state-of-the-art facility and enable businesses and individuals to enjoy the many benefits of burning biodiesel,” said Springboard CEO Mark Roberts, back in March. “While our target market will remain primarily local, corporate and municipal consumers of diesel, who want to incorporate biodiesel into their fleets, we wanted to compliment that with a local buyers club.”

Club members can buy prepared volumes of 10, 55 and 275 gallons.

“We believe that producing locally and consuming locally is a sustainable and profitable energy model that will benefit the local communities where our systems are located,” Roberts said. “Ultimately, we plan to build a broad network of these ‘micro facilities,’ all of which are designed to provide competitively priced, cleaner burning biodiesel to local communities that have a natural and more easily accessible feedstock.”

Working with Smart Alternative Fuels, a Redding, Calif.-based used cooking oil collector, Springboard will be processing up to 350,000 of biodiesel annually in its first facility in Chico.

“It's exciting to bring this alternative to Butte County,” Roberts said. “We have a relatively large diesel fleet, and by replacing some of that diesel, we can create a viable new market with new green collar jobs, as well as contribute to the reduction of the area's carbon footprint.”

Congratulations to Matt and Mark Roberts, and to all of the Springboard Biodiesel crew!