By Jon Scharingson, Renewable Energy Group Inc.
How to seamlessly integrate biodiesel into your product offering
The U.S. biodiesel industry is expected to produce more than 1.7 billion gallons of high-quality biodiesel making access to biodiesel at each level of the supply chain — producer to the retailer — simpler. With more high-production biorefineries and improved logistics, biodiesel producers can more readily provide product to distributors and retailers, including convenience stores. Convenience stores have two options when purchasing biodiesel — purchase a pre-blended fuel from their supplier or buy B99 and blend to the desired blend level on-site.
Convenience stores that offer diesel at their pumps can work with their fuel supplier to purchase biodiesel blended fuel. Blends up to B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% diesel) can be handled, stored and sold just as your diesel fuel would be. This option offers the most convenience and does not require any modifications to your existing infrastructure.
Convenience stores with on-site storage — or ability to install — have the option to purchase B99 directly from the biodiesel producer, helping to keep costs down, maximizing margins and achieving flexibility in selecting what biodiesel blends (B5, B10 or B20) you wish to offer. This route will require more management on your part to ensure the B99 storage tanks are clean and free of moisture, as well as maintain the temperature of the biodiesel at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit above its cloud point for blending success. Above ground storage tanks with heat-tracing, below ground tanks or indoor tanks are great options for storing B99 in cold weather conditions.
To blend your biodiesel with diesel fuel, you can either splash blend or injection blend. When blending it is important that the biodiesel be as warm as possible — minimally at 10 F above the cloud point. The warmer the biodiesel and petroleum diesel the better the blend. Also the load order is important. For top loading — load diesel then biodiesel and for bottom loading — load biodiesel then diesel.
In-line injection blending is the preferred blending method to achieve a thorough mix and consistent blended product. It’s also the best option when blending biodiesel with cold diesel fuel. Plus this option allows “on demand” blending so your convenience store can choose its blend based on daily economics.
Conventional diesel retail pumps can be used for any biodiesel blend up to B20. Higher blends can be dispensed safely as well, although hose selection should be considered for blends above B20. Some retailers choose to upgrade dispensers to offer customers a range of blends (a diesel/B5 nozzle, a B20 blend and a B50 blend, etc.). Retailers should be aware of the labeling requirements to ensure FTC compliance.
Every convenience store can integrate a biodiesel blending program that best suits their operation and meets their customer needs. The National Biodiesel Board offers a wealth of information as you begin the integration process for offering high-quality, clean-burning biodiesel.
Also check out regi.com to learn more about biodiesel.
Jon Scharingson — Jon oversees the sales and marketing efforts for Renewable Energy Group, Inc., a leading biodiesel producer.