Kansas salt mine becomes first to use B100

National Biodiesel Board applauds efforts to improve workers' air inside mine
By | February 01, 2005
Air quality is a critical issue for workers who use diesel engines in confined spaces, and using biodiesel fuel in mining equipment is one way to help protect their health. The Kansas Soybean Commission, Hutchinson Salt Company and National Biodiesel Board (NBB) hosted a tour of the salt company's mine in Hutchinson, Kan., on Dec. 22. The Hutchinson Salt Co. is the first mine of any kind to use B100.

"We use B100 biodiesel in everything underground that runs on diesel," said Max Liby, vice president of Manufacturing at the mine. "The main benefit is we've cleaned up soot in the air and have cut particulates. Workers, particularly the operator of the loaders, like the soy biodiesel much better because they say particulates do not get in their nostrils and the air is noticeably cleaner. Also, lubricity is much greater than if we used regular diesel fuel, so the injector pumps and injectors work more efficiently. The soy biodiesel actually cleans the injectors."

Hutchinson Salt Co. began using biodiesel in June 2003 and used 31,229 gallons of B100 in the first year.
"Biodiesel is a great fuel for use inside mines," said Harold Kraus, soybean farmer and NBB director. "It is made from a natural product, so what the air mine workers breathe from B100 is also natural. Besides cutting emissions, biodiesel also has a pleasant odor when it burns.
"Soybeans are important to Kansas not only for the vegetable oil biodiesel comes from, but also for the animal industry, as Kansas is the largest producer of packed beef in the United States," Kraus continued. "The animal industry is the largest user of soybean meal for its feed, plus the waste fat from animals can be made into biodiesel."

Biodiesel is the first and only alternative fuel to have fully completed the Health Effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. "There is a recognition that petroleum-based products, with their toxins, are affecting the health of the people," said Dr. Bailus Walker, past president of the American Lung Association of Washington, D.C., with a Master of Public Health degree. "There's no question about it-the epidemiological data is there, and it is solid. We need to explore in a more aggressive way alternative fuels. I would strongly recommend, as a health professional, we take a hard look at what is being accomplished with biodiesel."

Mitch Holmes, Kansas state representative, and Terry Bruce, Kansas state senator, were some of the dignitaries present at the tour. Other speakers included Jerry Wyse, Kansas Soybean Commission Chairman; Clark Duffy, Air and Radiation Director for Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment, Division of Environment; and Lee Spence, who is in charge of the mine's underground vault storage. Spence said since the mine stopped using diesel fuel, storage clients have not complained of diesel soot on their stored items.

The speakers stressed the importance of biodiesel-the alternative fuel with the highest energy balance-reducing independence from foreign oil. "Hutchinson Salt Company is a leader and innovator in public health and safety," said Duffy. "The groups represented here today need to make sure word gets out and promote alternative fuels in those areas where air quality standards are not being met."

The salt mine is one of more than 500 fleets using biodiesel. That number is expected to continue to rise, in part due to a biodiesel tax incentive bill that became law Jan.1, 2005. The tax incentive should make biodiesel more accessible to the general public because it will significantly narrow the cost gap between biodiesel and regular diesel fuel, which will in turn fuel demand and supply.
Liby indicated the significance this legislation would have to the Hutchinson mine, if 100 percent biodiesel is approved for the incentive.

Currently it applies to blends. He said they want the credit to apply to them, but if it doesn't, they will continue to use biodiesel. "The clean air is worth it," he said.

Other biodiesel users include the Missouri Department of Transportation, all four branches of the military, NASA, Harvard University, the National Park Service, U.S. Postal Service, L.L. Bean and others. Approximately 300 retail filling stations make various biodiesel blends available to the public, and more than 1,000 petroleum distributors carry it nationwide. Biodiesel offers similar fuel economy, horsepower and torque to petroleum diesel while providing superior lubricity.

The Hutchinson Salt Company's main product is highway salt for inclement weather. Clients include the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Illinois.

More information on biodiesel in mines can be found at www.biodiesel.org/

Hot Tips for Handling Biodiesel in the Cold
Like conventional diesel fuel, biodiesel cold weather properties require that users and handlers pay careful attention when dealing with the product in cold weather climates. It is extremely important to be familiar with the cold weather properties of both biodiesel and the generic diesel before blending the fuels together.

Blends of biodiesel will impact cold weather operability in direct relationship to the independent base analysis of the fuels being blended to create B2, B5 and B20. Therefore, the cold filter plugging point, cloud point and pour point of both generic fuels requires the attention of the blender.

"Become accustomed to asking your suppliers what the cold flow properties are of the diesel you are buying," said Paul Nazzaro, president of Advanced Fuel Solutions and advisor to the National Biodiesel Board. "This is just another example of an educated consumer having a positive operational experience through asking a few simple questions."

The same precautions taken with petrodiesel can be used to ensure trouble free operations with biodiesel. Traditional cold weather solutions for diesel work well with biodiesel, with the exception of commercial cold flow additives. To date, there are numerous additive marketing companies suggesting that their products resolve winter flow challenges independently of other critical elements known to resolve winter operability. However, a lack of empirical data makes industry leaders unable to support these claims.

Optional solutions to ensure satisfactory winter operability include indoor garaging of vehicles where possible, kerosene blending, and block and filter heaters. It is critical to keep fuel systems free of any moisture that may negatively impact winter operations as temperatures drop below freezing. Housekeeping protocols can go a long way in ensuring dependable winter operations.

If storing biodiesel in its neat form, heating biodiesel storage tanks, piping and associated delivery equipment to accommodate the pour point of biodiesel is mandatory unless diluting the neat biodiesel with 50 percent kerosene. Keeping biodiesel heated to 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is highly recommended until you can ensure that you have satisfactorily blended it into the distillate product of choice.

The absolute lowest operating temperature of your base diesel fuel (measured by cloud point, cold filter plugging point and low temperature filterability test) must be adhered to before biodiesel blending. On average, B20 will increase the finished fuel cold weather operational temperatures by 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep that compromise in mind when sourcing your base diesel fuel. B20 has enjoyed a successful track record nationwide when these basic winter preparatory instructions are followed.

After following strict housekeeping protocols and blending the lowest operability generic diesel with biodiesel, you may still encounter operational problems in the field. It is important to approach cold weather downtime in a constructive way. If you are afflicted with some operational downtime, consider the following:

1. Is it a widespread outage or a handful of vehicles in the fleet? Simply, if three trucks out of a fleet of 16 are down, it would appear that the issue is not with the fuel but with the units themselves. Check the last time those vehicles had maintenance performed, which should have included a filter change. It is not a bad idea to verify before the season starts what micron range the vehicle filter is. Commonly 5 to 7 micron range filters are specified; however in winter's harshest conditions, opening those filters up to 15 to 20 microns may actually allow the larger wax crystals (which form in fuel) to flow more easily through them.
2. Water is a nasty contaminant in diesel, including both types of entrained water (hanging in suspension and bottom water). If left untouched, water, which freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, will most likely restrict fuel flow from saddle tank to injector port. Commercial fuel deicers and a strict water control program will help keep this from occurring.
3. The fuel line, which runs from the saddle tank to the injection systems, normally is a long and narrow passage. It doesn't take much ice or wax to clog these narrow passages and eventually plug filter faces, restricting fuel flow. Both these detriments can be resolved, by eliminating or minimizing water and indicating the lowest operational performance specifications from a reliable diesel fuel supplier.

IRS Issues Tax Incentive Guidance
The biodiesel tax incentive from the American JOBS Creation Act of 2004 went into effect Jan.1, 2005. The IRS has published a guidance document related to the federal tax incentive for biodiesel. However, final guidelines have not yet been released. The IRS Notice 2005-04 on excise tax provisions added to tax code or affected by the American JOBS Creation Act, has been added to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) Web site. You can access the Federal Register Notice at: www.biodiesel.org/news/taxincentive/

The published notice provides guidance that is general in nature and does not contain many specifics relative to the numerous questions that have been identified by the industry. The IRS will be asking for public comment on the notice and hopes to close the public comment period by the end of February.

The IRS is presently developing detailed guidance documents for several critical aspects of the incentive, including producer registration and certification of feedstocks, among others. Members of the Ad Hoc Incentive Implementation Committee and NBB staff have been meeting with IRS and Department of Treasury staff, to develop detailed guidance documents. However, the IRS has indicated that these documents are still several months from completion.

This discussion will be a major topic at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 31-Feb. 2, as IRS representatives will make presentations and answer questions in two sessions: Incentives from the Federal Government and Legislatures 101. The IRS also plans to have a booth at the conference. However, the only official guidance to date for industry members is the referenced notice above.

Entities that intend to distribute or blend biodiesel between now and the publication of the final guidance document are advised to proceed with caution and to take a very narrow interpretation of the law. NBB staff and contractors are not excise or income tax advisors; therefore, they recommend you seek the services of a qualified tax professional.
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