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.


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.

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.

Contact Information
John Nelson
Email Contact

Boiler Irony


noun.  An outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.


Or in Triangle Biofuels Industries terms, it means the refusal of a DOE grant application for a new boiler at TBI because some pencil pusher at the Department of Energy couldn’t get past one part of the grant requirements that said “improve efficiency”.  We met every other requirement (increasing renewable fuel, renewable energy distribution, employment additions in a distressed county, etc), BUT we didn’t meet the improving efficiency checkbox because I stated that I intended to install a newer, bigger boiler to replace our existing one in order to facilitate the additional heat energy needed to increase biodiesel production capacity.

So, using our own funds, we removed our old 800,000 BTU boiler and installed a 1.9 million BTU boiler, still fueled by biodiesel, and yet our fuel consumption rate has stayed almost identical at about 300 gallons per week.

How is this possible?  Several reasons, but increased efficiency is the main reason.  See, the old boiler was a single pass “water tube” type, meaning the fire goes up the stack by first passing around tubes filled with water being pumped inside to heat the water.  The new boiler is a triple pass “fire tube” type.  Here the water surrounds the fire tubes and gets three chances to absorb the fire heat, which is significantly more efficient.  The kind of efficiency that is measurable even by a lay person (or even a DOE grant supervisor). 

The first measurement?   Our stack temperature went from over 700°F to less than 300°F.  That means more of the heat is going into the water where we need it, instead of up the chimney and outside.

The next measurement?  Our CO and O2 levels dropped dramatically as well, from over 200 ppm CO down to 32 ppm.  And from 12% O2 down to 5%.  This also means we are burning more efficiently…  91% efficient, to be precise.

Given that we are burning biodiesel, our emissions are minimal and there’s really no smoke that comes out, and no sulfur or particulate matter, so our emissions aren’t really that much cleaner from that perspective.  They were already pretty clean.  However, the improved burn efficiency has to help. 

Lastly, the old boiler was simply undersized.  Our previous boiler was running almost 20 hours a day in order to keep up with the demand, and frankly, we could overload it pretty easily and it just couldn’t keep up with the heat requirements we had.  The new boiler gets the entire loop up to temperature from a cold start in less than 30 minutes, and actually cuts off when it gets to working temperature (thus why we are saving fuel).

So was installing a new boiler in our plant more efficient?  Yep, in just about every way we can possibly measure.  More heat for our process, more consistent heat, working in a more efficient load cycle, and burning fuel more efficiently.  We also gain the benefit of internal space heating by the boiler.

The cost?  Well, as always, we buy used when we can.  The cost was almost a wash for selling my old boiler, which sold within two days of removing it.  The ROI would have been met in increased production within a six months anyway, but we got it back in 2 days.  That’s what I call efficient.

Firetube Boiler

150,000 Miles on Biodiesel

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll hit 150,000 miles on my 2005 VW Passat TDI. Not only is this the longest that I’ve ever owned any vehicle, it is my first diesel car. I bought it used in 2006 when it had about 2,000 miles on it, which the previous owner had mostly biodiesel in it. Since I’ve bought it, I’ve run it almost exclusively on B100. There are several interesting things about this:

1. I average about 30 MPG between highway and city. For 150,000 miles, that’s 5000 gallons of diesel fuel I have burned. Given that I’ve probably put a total of four tanks of diesel fuel in it over it’s lifetime, that’s about 4900 gallons that were pure biodiesel made from vegetable oil. That’s 4900 gallons of fuel that DIDN’T come from foreign oil, and was made by my employees right here in the North Carolina, USA.

2. Volkswagen’s take on biodiesel is pretty grim. They really only support blends of B5 biodiesel, and the dealer and a factory rep told me emphatically that running higher blends would ruin the engine and void my warranty. I am now mocking them…

3. In the 6 years I have owned this car, there have been very few mechanical problems. I’ve had to replace the fuel tank pump, which is the only thing that ever made me think biodiesel was to blame (It wasn’t. Turns out it’s a fairly common failure.) I’ve also just recently had to replace the camshaft. That is the most expensive repair I’ve done to date, and not related to biodiesel. Other than that, the only costs have been for tires, oil changes, and maintenance repairs or upgrades.

So after 150,000 miles of running almost exclusively on pure biodiesel, it makes me wonder, what is VW so afraid of? Surely they could have done (or did) this kind of testing on their own. I’m not the only person who has done this, either. There are hundreds of TDI owners that run pure biodiesel in their cars, and love it.

As for me, I’m still happy with the car and will continue to run it until the wheels fall off, or someone offers me more money to buy it than it’s worth.



TBI Featured in Travel Channel TV Show “Off Limits”

Triangle Biofuels Industries (Wilson, NC), the largest biodiesel plant in North Carolina, was featured in the July 29th airing of “Off Limits” with Don Wildman. The segment features the oil collection process, biodiesel production, and dispensing of biodiesel made from used cooking oil.  Also featured is an excellent animation about the biodiesel reaction process which shows how vegetable oil is turned into biodiesel and glycerin, and how the finished biofuel is processed.