By Dave Slade, Executive Director, Biofuel Technology and Services, Renewable Energy Group, Inc.
Showing heating oil companies how they can benefit from distilled biodiesel is as easy as counting to three.
1. Superior cold weather performance after blending with petroleum heating oil
2. Lower carbon intensity (CI) plus decreased supply and price fluctuations thanks to feedstock flexibility
3. Easier blending with petroleum heating oil
Getting some heating oil companies to take advantage of these benefits is where the challenge sometimes occurs. Although companies are increasingly offering Bioheat® blended fuel, which is traditional heating oil blended with biodiesel, some are still requesting biodiesel from a specific feedstock — typically soybean oil — rather than requesting higher quality biodiesel. Those that do are missing out on the benefits of distillation.
Superior Cold Weather Performance
Distillation is the most thorough process for purifying a liquid product — in this case biodiesel. It is better than any other purification method at removing certain minor components, such as steryl glucosides, which are naturally present in vegetable oils and can contribute to filter plugging issues when using biodiesel blends.
The removal of those minor components contributes to distilled biodiesel’s advanced cold performance properties. Far too often people think biodiesel Cloud Point is the only thing that matters when using biodiesel blends in cold conditions. But distilled biodiesel with a higher Cloud Point can outperform undistilled low-cloud biodiesel in cold weather.
The ability to create high-quality biodiesel from a variety of feedstocks is known at REG as feedstock flexibility. A recent Oil and Energy article explored the benefits of feedstock flexibility. One is that it can provide more nimbleness in the commodity markets. If a particular feedstock is experiencing supply or price fluctuations, REG can turn to other feedstocks and know that our end product will still meet customer expectations.
Another advantage of feedstock flexibility is the ability to make biodiesel from feedstocks such as animal fat, used cooking oil and inedible corn oil that can provide lower carbon intensity (CI) scores. CI is the measure of greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing and consuming a fuel. Some of the feedstocks with favorable CI scores can result in biodiesel with a higher Cloud Point, but since Cloud Point is less of an issue with a distilled biodiesel, users can get a fuel with lower CI that helps them reach sustainability goals and performs well in cold weather.
As an added bonus, biodiesel Cetane increases along with Cloud Point, so customers get a premium Cetane fuel when using higher Cloud Point distilled biodiesel, which improves combustion quality and reduces undesirable exhaust emissions.
As heating oil dealers fight the push from the natural gas industry, an environmentally friendly message is critical to showing homeowners that Bioheat blended fuel is a clean-burning alternative.
Ease of Blending
You may be sensing a theme related to the removal of minor components in the distillation process — and it has yet another benefit. It helps create the purest type of biodiesel. A purer biodiesel means there are fewer minor components. Fewer minor components means less effort is required to fully mix the biodiesel molecules and petroleum diesel molecules.
Free White Paper
To learn more about distilled biodiesel, including the distillation process and how it differs from the traditional method of purifying biodiesel, read this white paper.