San Diego biodiesel company forms alliance with major businesses

By Luke Geiver | November 23, 2011

Buster Halterman and his team at San Diego-based Buster Biofuels have figured out one of the most pressing issues in biodiesel production today: cheap feedstock acquisition. The problem for Halterman’s team however, is that after two years, their biodiesel production system designed to produce 2.1 MMgy from waste cooking oil, is still only a paper blueprint, and their main income has been based on the feedstock as they position themselves for biodiesel production. “One of the good things,” according to Jason Biddle, chief sales officer for the company, “is that in trying to create a successful biodiesel plant, we’ve procured a plethora of feedstock, we’ve created an existing collection company that is becoming profitable.”

After partnering with organizations like LEGOLAND California and the major league baseball team the San Diego Padres, Halterman and his team believe their hard work to create a biodiesel production facility capable of recycling over half of San Diego’s 3.5 million gallons of WVO for use as biodiesel feedstock could soon pay off more than it already has.

Halterman told Biodiesel Magazine, that “the whole reason we got into this is because there is a huge lack of biodiesel availability in San Diego at the pump,” has formed an alliance with several San Diego businesses that will allow Buster Biofuels to collect the WVO used at the partnering sites, and recycle that WVO for use as feedstock in biodiesel made specifically to fuel some of the San Dieguito Union High School District’s school buses. Through an agreement with other producers in the region to produce the biodiesel, Halterman provides the school district with the biodiesel sourced from the collected WVO via a Buster Biofuels delivery truck as needed. There are currently two buses run on the B20 blend, but Daniel Love, director of transportation for SDUHSD said that eventually, the entire fleet will run on B20.

LEGOLAND California will eventually use their portion of the WVO to power hot water washers used at their location, and the Padres are implementing the same program this December. “What I think is great,” Biddle said of the alliance partners, “is the level of interest they have (in recycling their WVO for biodiesel production).” That interest, according to Biddle, has already created several referrals by the current partners to other major organizations in the San Diego community. Biddle also said that the Padres and LEGOLAND California are currently looking to upgrade their equipment under their 2012 budgets, allowing each to purchase more high-blend biodiesel compatible equipment. “They are looking at buying new trucks and new things that they are going to need,” he explained, “and they want to make sure that they can run biodiesel in their equipment.”

Although the oil collection and distribution services at Buster Biofuels are currently paying the bills and feeding the family, as Halterman said, he maintains the company’s vision to operate as a vertically integrated company that can collect the oil, process the oil into biodiesel, and redistribute the biodiesel back into the local community. “We are actually delivering to smaller fleets,” Biddle said, “we have established a delivery scenario for the business.”

That scenario is something Halterman said he always set out to complete, and when the funding for the biodiesel production facility comes in, it’s also a scenario he said that will be complete. Even with the oil collection profits and the partnerships already formed in a city he insists is in great need of biodiesel, the end goal is to produce biodiesel. “We are literally shovel ready, we have all of our permits and tons of equipment and all the stuff we need is in place,” he said. Although the team could have accepted past offers to partner and possibly been up and running by now, Halterman said that they are still waiting government-based funding that he said matches up well with what the biodiesel company is trying to do. “All we need is the money and we can break ground tomorrow.”

The move to break ground could have been abandoned a year ago, according to both Halterman and Biddle, who admit that the political process in conjunction with the necessary permitting to get their plant to where it is today could have ruined their aspirations. “It (biodiesel production) does pencil out though,” Halterman said, “and even though we are dealing with tons of headaches, perseverance is key. I think there are struggles in every business,” but he added, “the numbers can support a family, create local jobs, and create a really meaningful and purposeful business.”

To view a video detailing Buster Biofuels alliance with LEGOLAND California, the San Diego Padres and the San Dieguito Union High School District’s school buses, visit:





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