By Ron Kotrba | September 10, 2012

In August I had the pleasure of attending the Collective Biofuels Conference in Temecula, Calif., hosted by Promethean Biofuels Cooperative Corp. The mix of speakers and attendees included some of the greatest recognized minds in biodiesel such as Jon Van Gerpen of University of Idaho, small commercial producers and grease collectors, home brewers, students, and all points in between. Dan Freeman of Dr. Dan’s Biodiesel said he was at the event to reinvigorate his passion for biodiesel. I know the gathering accomplished this for me.

The ingenuity and innovation of the small producer should not go unrecognized. Developments by this often-marginalized sector of the biodiesel industry have led to cutting-edge technology improvements over the years, and let’s hope they continue to do so. Biodiesel margins are tight, particularly with small producers, which do not have the balance sheets and bankroll to be anything other than efficient. Riding this edge of financial success and ruin lead small producers to a position in which to survive, they must be innovative. This was seen in Temecula at the Promethean Biofuels plant tour and heard in the open-forum style of questions and answers during the event’s presentations. 

Speaking of questions and answers, Kent Bullard, the subject of this issue’s Q&A, “Bullish on Biodiesel Quality,” also attended the event. Kent recently retired after serving nearly four decades in the national parks department and is recognized as the longest-serving BQ-9000 auditor. It was great to pick his brain, and watch others do the same. Read about Kent’s introduction to biodiesel years ago, his tireless efforts in promoting sustainability—and his own personal mission to live his life that way—the BQ-9000 program, and Kent’s views on biodiesel’s challenges and opportunities, beginning on page 20 of this issue.

I also delve into the pressing phenomenon of filter clogging at fuel terminal storage tanks in this issue. Rare instances of precipitate formation in biodiesel blends with on-spec fuel above the cloud point are thought to result from a combination of several items, including the altered chemical makeup of ultra-low sulfur diesel, saturated monoglyceride content in B100, big error bars in the 6584 method and much more. ASTM approved a new No. 1-B grade voluntary spec, which features a 0.4 mono spec and 200-second year-round cold soak filtration time, to address this, but as NREL engineer Robert McCormick says, “It’s not a slam dunk.” NREL began looking into this head-scratcher at the behest of the National Biodiesel Board late last year, well after the No. 1-B grade of biodiesel was originally balloted. Read more on page 28.

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