Valero representative discusses biodiesel storage at conference

By Ron Kotrba | February 14, 2012

Andy Szabo with Valero Terminaling and Distribution Co. spoke to a room full of people at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo last week about the company’s biodiesel storage practices. Valero owns 16 oil refineries with total refining capacity at 3 million barrels (126 million gallons) a day.

Szabo said if terminal operators have extra tank capacity or can build additional tanks, it’s best to store B50 onsite rather than B99 or B100 because, at a 50 percent blend, the fuel storage tanks do not require heating.

If pipelining a low-level B5 blend were more common, however, Szabo said large-scale commercial storage of high biodiesel blends such as B99 or B50 would be a nonissue largely because most terminals would simply just store B5.

When storing B99 or B100, Szabo said the tanks must be heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He added that some in the business store biodiesel at temperatures around 60 degrees, but Szabo said Valero’s experience is, “If it’s below 70, it doesn’t flow like it should.” Also, the piping requires heat tape and insulation from the tank to the injection point and back. He also mentioned that some fuel inevitably stays on the offloading truck, so to ensure shipping volumes and payments match, truck pump-off skids should be employed.

For B50 storage, Szabo gave two scenarios: offloading B99 from a barge, and offloading B99 from a truck. Valero, he said, doesn’t offload biodiesel from railcar.

To store B50 by offloading B99 from a barge, multiple ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) tanks will be required for receiving and shipping. As a side note Szabo said Valero stores upwards of a B80 blend in the summertime instead of B50. If offloading B99 from a barge then Szabo recommended backflushing the lines with ULSD to make sure no residual bio is left in the lines. An audience member asked if one could use nitrogen to blow out the lines, but Szabo was weary of saying that this would work and again recommended ULSD for backflushing the lines. For the piping, a minimum of heat tape and insulation are necessary.

If offloading B99 from a truck to store onsite as B50, Szabo recommended putting the B99 into a tank sized at or around 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons), and once again advised use of a truck pump-off skid to make sure all the fuel on the truck is delivered. Also, unless the terminal or storage facility always receives B5, Szabo said multiple ULSD tanks will be required to blend down the B99.

For B5 storage, Szabo said he recommends following the recommendations above and, from the B50 tank, blend down to a B5 level.

Szabo said before storing and blending biodiesel and blends, items to vet out include construction permits for new tanks, air permits, emergency response protocols, health and safety executive (HSE) and hazard and operability (HAZOP) considerations, and more.

Finally, Szabo emphasized talking to the local fire department before beginning to store biodiesel. “Because,” he said, “I can guarantee they haven’t seen this stuff before.”


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