The makers of the world’s favorite advanced biofuel — a/k/a the biodiesel industry — descended upon Texas to mingle, make and renew ties at the 2018 National Biodiesel Conference. And, to champion new ideas and find new supply chain and distribution partners.
Bummer that there wasn’t a biodiesel tax credit extension on offer. Bummer that diesel’s getting a bad rap in the press. Bummer that Tom Petty isn’t with us any more to sing:
“I’ll Stand My Ground, I Won’t Back Down,
I know what’s right, got just one life
in a world’s that keeps on pushing me around, I Stand My Ground”.
Because he might as well be singing to biodiesel’s makers, distributors and legion of customers and fans. In a world of coal cars running electric drivetrains, biodiesel still brings the power, the thrill, and the real thing on emissions.
A Ford Flivver in a Fuel Economy First — and B20 ready
Several automakers’ new 2018 diesel models were featured and a highlight was Ford’s first first-ever Ford F-150 diesel with a targeted EPA-estimated 30 mpg highway rating and full B20 support. B20 is a fuel blend of 20 percent low-carbon biodiesel with petroleum diesel.
The Ford F-150 joins the F-250/350/450 Super Duty and F-650/750 medium duty trucks as well as the Transit van to round out Ford’s strong line-up of diesel models supporting the use of B20 biodiesel blends. In mid-January, Ford dealers begin taking orders for the 2018 F-150 with all-new 3.0-liter PowerStroke diesel engine, and deliveries begin this spring.
But let’s not overlook General Motors, which is also bringing a strong lineup of 20 different diesel vehicle options to market in the 2018 model year, spanning the car, truck, van and compact SUV categories. General Motors supports B20 in all 20 of its diesel models. One of GM’s flagship models, the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup with a 6.6L Duramax turbo diesel engine, as well as the new 2018 Chevy Equinox SUV with 1.6L turbo diesel engine, will be featured at the National Biodiesel Conference this week compliments of The Thompson Group Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, TX.
The important off-road equipment market was highlighted by John Deere’s 5075E with a B20-supported PowerTech turbocharged diesel engine. John Deere was one of the first original equipment manufacturers to get involved with biodiesel, and this year the company is celebrating an important anniversary of its own – the 100th year since the first John Deere tractor was built.
And equipment giant Caterpillar was showcasing a CAT 938M Small Wheel Loader with a high torque, low speed C7.1 ACERT engine in the Biodiesel Vehicle Technology Showcase.
Going for B100? In the after-market, there was Optimus Technologies, whose technology enables B100 use even in the coldest climates. With its controller and second heated B100 tank system, Optimus is providing fleets an easy and cost-effective way to use pure B100 biodiesel in their existing vehicles and reduce carbon by 80 percent at a fraction of the cost of conversion to other fuel alternatives being considered that don’t provide as much carbon reduction, like compressed natural gas.
Today over 80 percent of the diesel vehicles coming off production lines fully support the use of B20, and OEMs are beginning to look into higher blends as well.
Highlight from the week was a new study from the United States’ Argonne National Laboratory on biodiesel’s lifecycle energy and greenhouse gas emission effects found biodiesel compared to petroleum diesel reduces GHG emissions by 72 percent and fossil fuel use by 80 percent.
This study represents the first time Argonne National Laboratory has published a lifecycle assessment of biodiesel including indirect land use change. ILUC has been included in analyses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board that independently conclude biodiesel’s GHG advantage exceeds 50 percent reduction over diesel fuel.
“The improvements to ILUC modeling in this study were not possible just a few years ago, because we did not have as much data as we do today,” said Farzad Taheripour, one of the authors of this paper from Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics. “Data available today shows that farmers all around the world are increasing productivity on existing farm land. Calibrating the model to these real-world trends improves the accuracy and reduces the predicted emissions of biofuel expansion.”
The improved model reduces ILUC emissions by more than 30 percent relative to the score adopted by CARB in 2015.
Roughly half of the biodiesel used in the US is made from soybean oil. The other half is produced from sources like used cooking oil, animal fats, and other fats and oils. The authors of this study began by collecting the latest data on the energy and emissions from farming soybeans. Soybeans are grown primarily to produce protein meal for livestock feed. So, the first processing step after soybeans leave the farm is to a soybean crush facility where 80 percent of every soybean is used to produce livestock feed. The volume of oil that remains after protein extraction exceeds demand for feed or food, (i.e. salad dressing, frying and baking, etc.), so a portion of that oil that we cannot eat or export is used to produce biodiesel.
“This study includes the largest ever survey of biodiesel production facilities to capture the energy used in the form of natural gas and electricity to convert fats, oils, and grease into biodiesel fuel,” said Jeongwoo Han, who maintains the GREET model for Argonne National Lab.
All these emissions were also combined with the emissions of transporting raw ingredients and finished fuel to market. By including all the emissions in the entire fuel lifecycle, this report presents a comprehensive comparison with the emissions of producing and using diesel fuel. This study includes more data but yields consistent results with other studies published over the last two decades.
The Bottom Line
To heck with the mess in DC, there’s cheerful new data on emissions reduction, a new B20 compliant vehicle from Ford and some NBB recognition of R&D and deployment pioneers were there to greet them all in Texas, and in DC the fight goes on. Biodiesel stands its mighty ground.