Driving in snowstorm

Biodiesel in Winter Time

Most everyone knows that biodiesel in the winter time can have problems with gelling if used straight or in high biodiesel blends without anti-gel additives.   Here at TBI, we use biodiesel in our trucks and cars all year around, and generally don’t blend it with diesel fuel unless we are forced to because of mid-trip refuels or extremely low temperatures.    Diesel fuel can gel also, albeit usually at lower temperatures than biodiesel.  The feedstock, or type of vegetable oil used in production greatly affects the winter performance of biodiesel.  The less saturated the fat, the better the performance in winter time.  Canola oil works very well for low temperature biodiesel, and palm oil is among the worst for cold weather performance.

Source:  NBB.org

Source: NBB.org

With North Carolina in the 20’s and 30’s for a few weeks and snow on the ground today, I thought it would be good to repost some information about biodiesel and gelling in the winter time.  There are two main measures of the potential for gelling when buying biodiesel, “cloud point” and “cold filter plug point”.

  1. The cloud point is the point at which the fuel will begin to form wax like crystals in the fuel which make the fuel appear cloudy, hence the name.  These wax like crystals are of course solids, and will cause filters to plug.   Long chain methyl esters, especially saturated ones like Palm Oil Biodiesel (PME), can solidify as the fuel temperatures drops. These can plug filters and cause engines to not start or stall shortly after start-up.
  2. The cold filter plug point is the temperature in which the fuel will no longer flow and will cause filter clogging.  Generally, the vehicle will have combustion issues before this temperature is reached, but certainly once it is reached, fuel will no longer reach the engine, and it will starve for fuel.

Other things that can also cause winter fuel performance issues are sediment and trash in the fuel, which can exacerbate and raise the cloud point temperature, due to the way the wax crystals form, as the sediment or trash particles in the fuel form a great nuclei for the wax crystals to form.  This means clean fuel is very important, especially in the winter time.   High moisture in biodiesel can also cause freezing or ice crystal problems in the fuel which can affect cold flow performance.

B100 Antigel Cold - Start of test

B100 treated with different anti-gel additives at the start of the test. Low was 14F.

B100 Antigel Colder

B100 treated with different anti-gel additives at the end of the test. Low was 14F.

Treatment Options

The two main ways that biodiesel is usually treated for winter time use is by adding anti-gel additives or blending with petroleum diesel (either #2 Diesel or #1 Diesel).  Commercial anti-gel additives can help winter fuel performance by modifying the wax crystal structure during crystal formation when cooling occurs in the fuel (this is true for diesel or biodiesel).

For biodiesel, simply adding a commercially available anti-gel additive for regular #2 diesel fuel should be fine.  Any truck stop or auto supply store will have several brands to choose from.  As long as it’s made for diesel fuel (and NOT gasoline), you will be okay.  However, some work better than others for biodiesel.  We’ve done some extensive testing with anti-gel additives and chose the best one for our commercial application to all our winter fuel blends.   Experiment and see which additive works best for your biodiesel fuel or biodiesel blend.   It is important to add the anti-gel before waxing occurs, as it will not perform as well afterwards.  So, add the anti-gel at the first sign of cold weather.

Biodiesel blends with #2 diesel as high as B80 (80% Biodiesel to 20% #2 Diesel) work well in North Carolina for vehicles that can operate on high biodiesel blends.  It helps to have a heated fuel filter as well, but it’s not always necessary.  Additionally, these fuels are usually treated with anti-gel additives too.   Colder temperatures in northern states might naturally require higher blends of diesel.  B20 is a common blend that seems to show few problems with cold weather in all but the coldest states.  Minnesota has done extensive testing in severe cold weather operations with B2 blends.

#1 Diesel, or Kerosene, has excellent cold flow properties and is quite often blended with #2 Diesel in the winter months to meet cold flow specifications, thus improving cold weather engine operability. Cloud and pour points, and CFPPs of some #1 Diesel fuels can be well below -30º F.   So adding #1 Diesel to B99 biodiesel can also have the same effect, lowering the cloud and pour points simply by blending fuels.

By using anti-gel additives and/or diesel fuel blends, you can continue to run biodiesel in your car or truck all winter long without fear of being stalled on the side of the road due to cold flow performance problems.  As always, be sure your fuel source is reliable and registered, so you know you are getting a good product.

A diesel fire tube boiler capable of running biodiesel

Using Biodiesel for Boiler Fuel To Lower Emissions

Are you trying to lower your sulfur or volatile emissions from your diesel fired boiler?   By adding biodiesel to your boiler fuel mixture you can realize some significant reductions in Sulfur, CO2, NOx, and other harmful particulate matter emissions from your stack.    Biodiesel has virtually no sulfur, so blending it with diesel fuel can help lower your emissions, as well as helping your boiler to burn more efficiently, and possibly reducing operating costs as well.  Biodiesel burns up to 80% cleaner than diesel fuel.

Air Pollution from boiler smoke stack

Emissions testings have shown that the use of B20 biodiesel in a boiler can reduce particulate matter emissions by as much as 20%, and can decrease NOx emissions by up to 20%. Blends with higher biodiesel content can provide greater particulate matter reductions. For example, the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) has studied the use of bioheat blends in oil-fired heating systems for several years. BNL is the national leader in the United States for testing of fuels and heating equipment for the oilheat industry.  One focus of the research at BNL has been to determine if bioheat blends could be substituted for conventional heating oil without modification or adjustment to existing oil-fired heating systems.

We can offer biodiesel and biodiesel blends cheaper than #2 petroleum diesel fuel.

Triangle Biofuels has been using biodiesel for boiler fuel since the beginning of 2009, using pure biodiesel in warmer months, and sometimes using a biodiesel blend in winter months.  For new customers, we recommend starting out with a lower blend such as B5 (5% biodiesel to 95% petroleum diesel fuel).   Biodiesel will slowly clean your fuel tanks, fuel lines, and nozzles.  Using higher blends can cause problems initially as years of gunk can clog your lines or nozzles, or cause inefficient spray patterns.  Start slow and work up to higher blends over a few weeks or months.   Otherwise, there are no significant changes or modifications to observe for using biodiesel blends in your boiler.  Biodiesel works well in residential as well as large scale commercial boilers.

Because biodiesel has a higher flash point than #2 diesel fuel, a pre-heater is recommended, but not absolutely necessary.  Our first boiler was a Columba WL-60 which worked well without a pre-heater on B100.   Contact us and ask about using biodiesel or a biodiesel blend in your diesel fired boiler.

Biodiesel Pump with Fuel Spilling out

5 Things to Know About Biodiesel

Biodiesel is not Vegetable Oil

This may be the most common mistake I still hear after 10 years making biodiesel from vegetable oil using transesterification.  Transesterification is the fancy name for the chemical process used to chemically break a triglyceride molecule down and turn it into a methyl-ester (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerol.   In 2015, I still have conversations where someone tells me they used to “make biodiesel” by mixing used cooking oil and gasoline and pouring it in their diesel truck.  Not only is that concoction NOT biodiesel, it’s not good for your engine, or even your fuel tank.  It WILL ruin your car or truck.  Don’t do it.

Biodiesel is Not Made from Corn

Nope, it’s not.  That’s Ethanol.  Unless you mean corn oil, but even that isn’t used very much in the biodiesel industry.  Ethanol is usually made from starches or sugar, which are broken down with enzymes, yeast, and fermentation into ethyl alcohol.  Biodiesel is ALWAYS made from fats, any fat, but not from sugar or starches like corn.   Common oils used commercially for producing biodiesel are soybean, canola, palm, jatropha, and used cooking oil.

Biodiesel Will Not Ruin Your Engine

Really, it won’t.  Well, maybe, it depends…  It got more complicated around 2009 with the EPA’s ruling to require engine manufacturers to use mechanical and urea based systems to reduce harmful emissions in diesel engines.   These changes, specifically DPF (diesel particulate filters) and urea additive systems can cause compatibility problems with high concentrations of biodiesel (above B20).   All diesel cars and trucks can at least handle blends of 5% biodiesel (B5) or less.   Most cars and trucks before 2007 are usually fine for blends up to B100, but after that you should check with your manufacturer to find out if your diesel car or truck can handle biodiesel blends above B5.

Biodiesel is Inexpensive

Biodiesel is usually cheaper than diesel fuel.   The government instituted a biodiesel tax credit for producers starting in 2004 to help make biodiesel more cost competitive with diesel fuel (which has subsidies already built in the tax code).   Because biodiesel is usually cheaper, and often because it is mandated for blending, petroleum companies regularly buy biodiesel in bulk for blending with regular diesel fuel in order to improve profits and take advantage of some of the beneficial properties of biodiesel in their fuel (like increased cetane and lubricity).  In fact, many times that diesel you are buying at the truck stop or convenience store is already a B5 or less blend, it just isn’t labeled as such.

You Don’t Have To Commit

Biodiesel is a certified fuel by the EPA and the ASTM.  That means that when used properly, it is compatible with any modern engine that is on the road today.  It also means you can use B20 biodiesel this week, then next week fill up with regular diesel, and next month use B5 biodiesel, and so on.   You can be a dedicated biodiesel enthusiast, or you can be a philanderer and switch back and forth as often as you wish.  It’s your choice.  Your engine won’t care.  Really.

That’s five things.  Want to know more?  Check out our Frequently Asked Questions or Why Biodiesel pages

Senate Urges EPA to Set RFS Volumes

32 Senators Sent a Letter to EPA on Biodiesel Volumes: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led a letter sent Monday urging EPA to quickly approve strong biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Yes, you read that right.  The US EPA still hasn’t set the volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard for last year.  Last year.

Pointing to an industry survey, lawmakers said that nearly 80 percent of U.S. biodiesel producers had scaled back production last year, and that about 60 percent quit production altogether.

Additionally, about 66 percent of biodiesel producers said they have already reduced or anticipate reducing their workforce.

The EPA has said it expects to set the standards for 2014 and 2015 some time this year.

The senators wrote that the EPA delays in implementing the RFS have created “tremendous uncertainty and hardship for the U.S. biodiesel industry and its thousands of employees. Plants have reduced production and some have been forced to shut down, resulting in layoffs and lost economic productivity … We urge you to get biodiesel back on schedule under the statutorily prescribed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) process and quickly issue volumes for 2014 at the actual 2014 production numbers. We also hope you move forward on the 2015 and 2016 biodiesel volumes in a timely manner.”

Back In Production

TBI was idle for 2 months at the end of 2014 due to lack of the biodiesel tax credit and a lack of guidance from the EPA on the RFS volumes for biodiesel.  With the tax credit retroactively renewed for 2014, we are back in production for 2015.

We are once again producing SME and FAME biodiesel for bulk blenders, fleets, and retail sales in blends of B99 or B20.  Other custom blends are available upon request.

We thank you for your continued support of Triangle Biofuels and look forward to a productive year in 2015.


TBI Biodiesel Glycerin Separator

New Upgraded Glycerin Separator Installed

We installed our new laminar flow glycerin separator this week.  The new unit is capable of handling 30 gallons per minute.   We’ve added our own automation panel to handle the input, output, and glycerin discharge pumps, as well as level and temperature indicators that give us an idea of how the unit is working.  The new unit not only works at a higher flow rate, it also appears to get more glycerin out of the output stream than our old unit.

Preliminary tests look good, and we are excited to see it replacing our older 10 GPM Hydrasep separator.  That unit is for sale, by the way, and works well.  We’ve just outgrown it.


More Politics From Obama Administration for EPA and RFS

In order to boost the election chances of Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) in a race to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the White House may increase the final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets and delay release of the rule until mid-to-late summer when it’s closer to midterm elections, according to an energy analyst.

“According to Real Clear Politics, Braley leads [Iowa Republican Senate nominee Joni] Ernst by 5.3 points, a gap that could get much closer now that the five- way Republican primary is over,” explained Kevin Book, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners, in a note to clients last evening.

EPA’s proposed 2014 rule, issued in November 2013, calls for nearly across-the- board cuts.

“We have suggested in the past that the White House could look to empower Braley’s chances and help Democrats retain the Senate by increasing biofuel targets under the 2014 RFS. If that were the case, EPA might miss its self- imposed June 20 deadline [for releasing the final 2014 rule] and opt for a mid- to late-summer release,” Book noted. “Such a move might have more of an impact closer to the mid-term elections,” he added.

The 2014 RFS proposal has still not been sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, with OPIS reporting earlier this week that some sources were skeptical EPA could meet its goal of releasing the final rule by summer.

“Even though OMB targets a 90-day turnaround, the White House has regularly beaten that timeline with previous RFS rulemakings,” Book continued. “Still, it seems unlikely at this point that EPA would hit the June 20 self-imposed deadline for releasing the 2014 RFS. If, as we have considered, the White House is looking to help Braley’s race by both releasing the RFS later in the year and increasing targets relative to the proposal, a release closer to or during the August Congressional recess could bode well for Braley. Braley could campaign at home arguing that his efforts resulted in increased targets for the largest biofuel producing state,” he noted.

In response, EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia told OPIS that the agency is “working on it [the final 2014 RFS] and hopes to have it out as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, in his note, Book outlined “at least three ways EPA could increase total ethanol requirements under the 2014 RFS: (1) increase gasoline consumption estimates; (2) increase E85 consumption estimates; and (3) change its methodology,” noting that based on higher gasoline consumption, EPA could increase the total ethanol requirement to 13.6 billion gal from 13.01 billion gal.

On the subject of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), Book explained that “[a]ssuming EPA sticks with its proposed methodology for both the final 2014 and 2015 RFS targets, we estimate that carryover RINs could help regulated entities address the ethanol ‘blendwall,’ [the point at which 10% ethanol blends are maxed] that is, use carryover RINs in lieu of actual biofuel blending. We would suggest a significant RIN bank should place downward price pressure on the D6 RIN, commonly referred to as the ethanol RIN,” he added.

On Wednesday, OPIS pegged 2014 D6 RINs around 43.5cts per RIN.

As OPIS reported earlier this week, another wrinkle of a possible delay in the
2014 RFS release involves the June 30, 2014 compliance deadline for the 2013 RFS. The agency may have to extend the 2013 RFS compliance deadline.

Meanwhile, a biofuels industry source disagreed with Book’s assessment on RINs.

“If EPA allows the June 30 compliance deadline to pass without a 2014 RVO rule in place, it will trigger RIN price spikes — just as it did last year. There will be a massive retirement of RINs, and everyone will hold on to whatever remainder they have,” the source warned.


EPA Proposing Lower Limits for RFS This Year

The U.S. biodiesel industry is the leading producer of EPA-designated advanced biofuel, and the first to break 1 billion gallons of annual production. With commercial-scale refineries across the country, the industry has exceeded RFS requirements in each year of the program including 2013 with an all-time record production estimated at 1.7 billion gallons. Biodiesel is a clear RFS success story and the industry is calling on the EPA to support a modest increase in the proposal that is consistent with actual, real-world production.

The EPA’s proposed rule for next year would set biodiesel volumes at 1.28 billion gallons while shrinking the overall advanced biofuel requirement to 2.2 billion gallons. Additionally, because excess biodiesel production in 2013 can be carried over for compliance into 2014, the 1.28 billion gallon proposal for 2014 could mean an effective market closer to 1 billion gallons—a dramatic reduction from current production levels.

Distillation columns of a biofuel plant

Press Release: 11 Reasons Why You Should Invest in the Biodiesel Industry

March 28, 2013
11 Reasons Why You Should Invest in the Biodiesel Industry

GRAND FORKS, ND – (Mar. 28, 2013) – Below is breakdown of the latest, sourced information as to why investment in biodiesel is a sound decision written by Ron Kotrba, Editor of Biodiesel Magazine.


  1. Jump in on a growing market: The U.S. biodiesel industry is poised for its most profitable, successful year yet in 2013 with expected record-breaking production volumes thanks in part to the increased federal biomass-based diesel requirement of 1.28 billion gallons (28 percent higher than 2012), the $1 per gallon tax credit and rebounding D4 RIN prices. In addition, favorable blend economics indicate that obligated parties under the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) will find it economically advantageous* to blend U.S. biodiesel over Brazilian sugarcane ethanol to meet their advanced biofuel obligations (2.75 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons), over and above the biomass-based diesel volume requirements, suggesting the possibility of domestic biodiesel production significantly exceeding 1.28 billion gallons. *farmdoc daily
  2. Sustainable 10-year growth plan: IHS Global Insight conducted a modeling report for the National Biodiesel Board to help guide EPA with its yearly biodiesel RVO under RFS2 and, in the modeling report, the group determined that there will be enough feedstock available to reach 3.3 billion gallons of U.S. biodiesel production by 2022. Read article
  3. The National Biodiesel Board unveiled a new industry target in February 2013, named 10×22, an aggressive but achievable goal that calls for biodiesel to make up 10 percent of the U.S. diesel fuel supply by 2022. Read article
  4. Engine makers support biodiesel, why not you? All major OEMs producing diesel vehicles for the U.S. market support at least B5 and lower blends and 79 percent of U.S. manufacturers now support B20 or higher biodiesel blends in at least some of their equipment.
    Source: NBB OEM support document, Sept. 2012
  5. No blend wall here: While the ethanol industry struggles with hitting its blend wall, biodiesel penetration in the 2012 U.S. diesel fuel supply was only 1.9 percent. Given that all major OEMs support B5, achieving a 5 percent biodiesel penetration rate would mean nearly 3 billion gallons of biodiesel production (almost three times greater than 2012 production volumes). Moreover, nearly all the biodiesel used in the U.S. today is consumed by heavy-duty applications, a growing number of which support B20. To reach 20 percent penetration, the U.S. would need to produce 11.5 billion gallons of biodiesel, 10 times more than produced last year. Read article
  6. Global ethanol and biodiesel consumption combined will reach 135 billion gallons by 2018.
    Source: Global Industry Analysts Inc.
  7. Biodiesel quality continues to improve: The latest NREL quality survey results announced February 2013 at the National Biodiesel Conference show a record 97 percent of the biodiesel on the market today is within ASTM D6751 specifications. Read article
  8. 68 percent of U.S. and Canadian biodiesel productive capacity is BQ-9000-certified, meaning strict quality controls are in place—of the approximately 3 billion gallons of productive capacity in the U.S. and Canada, 1.84 billion gallons is BQ-9000-certified versus 1.24 billion gallons that is not.
    Source: 2013 Biodiesel Plant Map and the BQ-9000 site of certified producers.
  9. Greenhouse gas emissions will continue to tighten globally, and EPA has determined that biodiesel from waste achieves more than 80 percent GHG reduction compared to the fossil diesel baseline, while biodiesel made from soybean oil achieves greater than 50 percent GHG reductions.
    Source: EPA
  10. Assurance in the market: Obligated parties, third-party quality assurance plan (QAP) providers, the biodiesel industry and government have worked together to restructure the RIN program to provide more security against potential fraud. A proposed QAP rule was issued in January and a final rule is expected midyear. The proposal offers obligated parties an affirmative defense against civil liabilities from buying, trading or retiring bad RINs, and includes one option that also relieves obligated parties from paying for the replacement of any invalid RINs.
    Source: U.S. EPA
  11. Supporting biodiesel supports economic growth: The biodiesel industry spent an estimated $4.3 billion to produce 1 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2012, without the $1 per gallon federal tax credit in place all year. The biodiesel industry supported approximately 64,000 jobs in 2012, once again without the $1 per gallon tax credit. With the credit, it would have supported another 19,200, totaling more than 83,000 jobs.
    Source: NBB Fueling Action View document

About Biodiesel Magazine:
Biodiesel Magazine is a bi-monthly trade journal dedicated to objective, independent coverage of biodiesel news, events and information relevant to the global industry. With editorial focus on U.S. and international methyl ester manufacturing, trade, distribution and markets, Biodiesel Magazine also provides valuable insight into feedstock and market share competition from the non-ester renewable diesel sector. Biodiesel Magazine is owned by BBI International.

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