New TransAtlas upgrade shows biodiesel industry diversity

By Nicholas Zeman | July 15, 2009
Posted on August 17, 2009

Geographical knowledge is very important to marketing fuels, and a recent upgrade to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's TransAtlas tool correlates biodiesel production locations with diesel vehicle density and fueling stations across the United States. The TransAtlas tool was originally launched in June, but biodiesel plant locations were uploaded as a new "layer" just last week after the National Biodiesel Board completed a recent producer survey, allowing the interactive map to have the most up-to-date information.

According to the TransAtlas tool developed by NREL, the heaviest cluster of biodiesel fueling stations is located in the Southeast Atlantic region, an area that's been a hotbed for biodiesel plant development-a longtime trend in the biodiesel business to locate refineries around waste feedstock sources plus diesel consumption markets.

"That's because the feedstocks for biodiesel are very diverse, while the ethanol industry is still over 95 percent corn," said NREL senior analyst, Kristi Moriarty. "Waste greases near big cities, animal remains near slaughterhouses and food processing plants, canola in the north and soybeans in the Midwest, are all part of biodiesel production."

The TransAtlas is essentially a tool for infrastructure development, Moriarity said. The three main aspects of fuel infrastructure are production, distribution and retail availability. NREL's interactive map will allow marketers and distributors to locate product sources and high proportions of diesel drivers who might be interested in using methyl esters. "For instance, Flying J might be able to plan the installation of a new station in an area where there is a high density of diesel vehicles and a production plant, but little retail availability," Moriarity said.

For more information, NREL's TransAtlas tool can be viewed at
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