Thursday, December 16, 2010

Could it be the return of the biodiesel credit?

Wow! It looks our congress might have a change of heart on the biodiesel credit. In the article below, you can read that it may be considered for renewal, along with a pile of tax cuts. I'm not sure how I feel about renewing some of the tax cuts personally, but it sure would be nice for some biodiesel plants in the country to open back up for business.

UPDATE: I just read that the bill, officially called the Tax
Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, passed in the Senate. It is now up to the House to approve the bill and send it on to the President. Here is the press release from Big Biodiesel.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fossil Fuels Subsidies 12X Clean Energy!?!

I had heard anecdotally that fossil fuels received substantial subsidies, and probably more than renewables. As you know from reading here, the federal biodiesel production tax credit expired just shy of a year ago, so that just adds insult to injury in my book. Here is an article on Treehugger that discusses a recent study by the Marshall Business School at USC, which found that around the world, fossil fuels receive 12 times the subsidies of renewable or clean energies:

So, I kinda understand the unwillingness of US citizens to subsidize biodiesel. The nation is in rough shape and a lot of people are out of work. The biodiesel manufacturers should be able to stand on their own, but the point of subsidies, in my understanding, is to help a nascent industry to establish its footing in developing market share, distribution, etc.. Biodiesel as an industry has not been around for terribly long, and certainly not as long as fossil fuels such as coal or petroleum. Yet, as the USC study indicates, fossil fuels continue to receive piles of subsidies.

A footnote on the Treehugger article above mentions that Obama tried to eliminate almost 40 billion dollars in coal and oil subsidies. I realize that the federal government is attempting to reduce the deficit, so if they don't renew the biodiesel production credit, so be it... but get rid of the subsidization of fossil fuels to level the playing field a little. Drop a line to your representative in the state and federal government. All the closed biodiesel plants around the country might stand a chance of re-opening if they could actually compete with Big Oil.

OK, I'm getting off my soapbox... for now.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cold weather and cottonseed

It is blustery weather we are having around here the last few days! It is even a little chilly in the biodiesel plant now, as you can see from the thermometer and biodiesel in the picture above. I've inserted insulation into the warm weather exhaust fan boxes to help keep the cold outside. Notice the sample jar on the left with the white stuff in the bottom? That is biodiesel from poultry fat that I processed back in May for the fellas over at BW Fuel. All the saturated fats in that fuel just don't handle the cold too well. David over at Piedmont Biofuels said he had to heat up a truck's manifold this morning due to some chicken fat biodiesel solidifying.

I've been working with Lyle and David over at Piedmont Biofuels on some cottonseed we got from the Rolling Hills Gin in New London. This is the same ginner that makes the raw materials for TS Design's Cotton of the Carolinas(CotC) -- what an awesome project. Check out their website to find out how they are growing cotton and making them into shirts with only 750 miles traveled. Now, compare that to the thousands of miles most t-shirts people wear. But, I digress.

We have been talking with Eric Henry of TS Designs, the guys at Piedmont and Tom Wedegaertner from Cotton, Inc, about making some biodiesel from cottonseed. Here are some mason jars of cottonseed oil(CSO) obtained from Tom recently. Note the little tufts of fiber and the brown chunk in the foreground. The former is linters, the short fibers ripped from the cottonseed. The latter is a soapy mass of stuff that comes from the caustic stripping process of refining CSO.

We are currently running some tests to see if we can skip the refining process and make crude CSO into biodiesel. We have heard that it has been done before, but would like to see what, if any, conversion losses occur. Also, we want to try crushing the cottonseed without first delinting. We expect to see some loss from the linters absorbing the CSO, but want to quantify that first.

Check out the TS Designs Facebook page where they posted some pictures from the Piedmont Biofuels mobile tech trailer, where David, Lyle and Eric crushed some Rolling Hills cottonseed.

Stay tuned for more results and information on the CotC biodiesel project!