Renewable Diesel Soars, but Biodiesel’s Here to Stay

By Anna Simet | June 06, 2022

In a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it is predicted that renewable diesel supply—domestic production and net imports—will exceed biodiesel supply in the near term. EIA projects that renewable diesel capacity will increase to 130,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2022 and 145,000 b/d in 2050. As for biodiesel, it will also see expanding capacity, albeit smaller increases. The agency expects biodiesel production to rise by 7% this year, averaging 114,000 b/d, and up to 115,000 b/d  in 2023.

For a little more context on renewable diesel growth, at the end of 2020, U.S. renewable diesel production capacity was estimated at about 0.6 billion gallons. By 2024, it is forecasted to reach an astounding 5.1 billion gallons per year. That leaves lots of questions to be answered, perhaps most notably: Where will the feedstock come from? Companies like Renewable Energy Group are continuously looking at new possibilities. In our page-12 feature, “Catalyzing Decarbonization,” Bob Keyon, vice president of sales and marketing, touches on the company’s feedstock strategy. While playing cards close to the chest when it comes to divulging specifics, Kenyon did say that cover crops and creation of a new seed crop are a couple of the opportunities on the table, and that REG does not have concerns about sourcing.

That brings me to our page-20 feature and cover story, “Exploding Acreage,” which details efforts of three developers of oilseed crops: camelina, CoverCress and carinata. Despite their benefits and potential role in satisfying renewable diesel feedstock demand, commercialization of a new crop is a marathon, to say the least. Even so, those working on these efforts are seeing some positive developments, including one that is critical to success: interest and engagement of farmers. Says Dale Sorensen, CCI chief commercial officer, on CoverCress, “It’s blown my mind the interest farmers have shown over the winter.”  Sorenson expects to recruit between 75 and 100 farmers for fall planting, with most interested in raising more than 100 acres, and some double or triple that number.

On that theme of feedstock, I want to circle back to my introduction regarding renewable diesel surpassing biodiesel. As a note that I want to end on, I’ll point to a conversation that I had with Hermann Stockinger, chief sales officer of BDI Bio-Energy International, a company that has become well known for its technology, plant upgrading and project development capabilities. While discussing momentum in the renewable diesel sector, he was quick to point out that biodiesel is not going anywhere. In particular, “We see that biodiesel shows the best greenhouse gas savings—with the right technologies, it allows use of the lowest-quality waste materials that can’t be used for renewable diesel,” he says. “These waste materials require pretreating and are very hard to bring to a level that allows them to be used in renewable diesel reactors, due to the many impurities that cannot be separated up front … We see that there will always be good further opportunity for biodiesel when it comes to the use of low-quality waste materials.”

Finally, you may have noticed the addition of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to the masthead. Simply put, the industry is evolving, and we are, too. We look forward to bringing you continued coverage of all things biodiesel, renewable diesel and SAF.

Author: Anna Simet
Editor, Biodiesel Magazine

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