JAMESTOWN, N.D. – The North Dakota Soybean Council held an informational meeting on increasing biodiesel usage in Jamestown, N.D., on May 2. The presentation called “Fueling Your Farm with Biodiesel,” focused on two areas: 1) the economic benefit to growers from biodiesel; and 2) the changes to biodiesel and the ways to prevent fuel problems.
The economic benefits
Harrison Weber, director of market development for the N.D. Soybean Council opened the meeting by outlining how value can be added to each bushel of soybean raised by increasing the use of biodiesel.
“Biodiesel production from soybeans adds 63 cents of value for every bushel you produced,” Weber said. “It’s a good return and one of the great success stories that the (soybean) checkoff has accomplished.”
These figures are important to North Dakota soybean growers since Cass County is usually number one or two for soybeans planted and production. Stutsman County, which is the site of this meeting, consistently holds down the number three spot in the nation for soybean production.
Biodiesel has improved
The past 15 years have been spent correcting off-spec biodiesel and biodiesel issues, according to Eric Lawson from MEG Corp Fuel Consulting. In fact biodiesel samples inspected in 2006 showed only 40 percent of those samples passed, meaning 60 percent of the samples indicated off-spec biodiesel production and it is easy to see why they had problems back then. However, by 2013, 95 percent of the samples were passing and today that figure is probably 99 percent or better.
But many have problems with plain diesel fuel today, with things ranging from water in the fuel supply to microbial contamination of the fuel and gelling problems during cold weather.
“If you are having problems with diesel fuel, you are going to have problems with biodiesel,” Lawson said. “We don’t want that transition to be blamed on biodiesel. Biodiesel is a much superior product today.”
The term biodiesel refers to pure, unblended fuel and is also referred to as B100. Biodiesel blends are indicated by a “B” followed by a number representing the percentage of biodiesel in a gallon of fuel. For instance, B20 means the fuel is a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel.
Biodiesel is made up of a variety of feedstocks including vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil and canola oil, in addition to used cooking oils and animal fats – all renewable resources. Soybean oil is the feedstock for about half of the biodiesel produced in the U.S., however, Lawson pointed out raw vegetable oil is not biodiesel.
Because No. 2 diesel fuel can contain up to 5 percent biodiesel, B5 is exempt from additional labeling at the pump. Many diesel fuel providers are now putting in 2 percent biodiesel instead of a more costly additive that increases the lubricity of the diesel fuel. The 2 percent biodiesel actually increases the lubricity to an even higher level.
Lubricity became an issue when it was mandated to reduce the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel and the higher sulfur levels satisfied the higher lubricity requirements. An added benefit is biodiesel has a higher cetane rating, which results in quicker starts and with less smoke in the exhaust.
Diesel vehicle drivers should see no loss of power or performance when using blends up to 20 percent, according to literature from the MEG CORP. Biodiesel enhances the lubricating properties of diesel fuel, reducing wear and prolonging engine life. Biodiesel also has a detergency effect to keep injectors and fuel systems clean.
There are detractors who claim biodiesel production competes with food, but the MEG CORP actually claims soybean-based biodiesel production has a positive impact on the world’s food supply. Processing biodiesel from soybeans uses only the oil portion of the soybean, which is about 20 percent, leaving the protein available to feed livestock and humans. By creating a new market for the soybean oil, we increase the availability of protein-rich meal for human and animal consumption.
Finally, Lawson stressed producers must have a storage system that is favorable to biodiesel. When it was plain diesel fuel with a high sulfur content, the sulfur acted as a natural anti-microbial in diesel fuel and prevented the growth of fungus and bacteria. However, reducing the sulfur content removed these anti-microbial properties, fungus and bacteria are now able to grow in the water-fuel interface and this occurs whether it is a biodiesel blend or not.
The MEG CORP has some biodiesel storage guidelines on their website to help plan a farm storage program for diesel and biodiesel products, as well as a lot of other information on biodiesel. The website is: www.megcorpmn.com.