By Jon Scharingson, Renewable Energy Group Inc.
A lot of times in this space, I tell you why offering biodiesel makes good business sense for convenience stores.
This time, I’m going to let someone else do the talking — namely, a representative from a large c-store company that has experienced the benefits of biodiesel blended fuel firsthand.
Jim Pirolli, vice president of fuels for the Kum & Go chain, said that one of the many reasons biodiesel has been good for his company is that it’s an environmentally friendly fuel at a time when there is growing awareness of and support for sustainable practices.
“I think the sustainability factor is very important,” Pirolli said. “Reducing carbon emissions and replacing fossil fuels with something that’s more environmentally friendly is a message that a lot of people can get behind, whether they’re fleets or individual drivers.”
When Pirolli talks about giving customers the products they want, he’s talking about a lot of customers. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company has more than 400 stores in 11 states that serve about 500,000 customers daily.
Biodiesel Boosts Performance
Kum & Go has a long history with biofuels, first offering an ethanol blend in the late 1970s. About a decade ago, it introduced biodiesel and now blends biodiesel into nearly all of its diesel fuel. That varies from 5% to 20% (known as B5 and B20), and it offers biodiesel year-round, even in the middle of winter at its stores in the upper Midwest and mountain regions.
It’s important, Pirolli says, that a c-store purchases high-quality biodiesel. (Full disclosure: Kum & Go is a REG customer.)
“Everything we do on fuel is based on customer demand and quality, foremost,” he said. “With biodiesel, the fuel has some unique performance characteristics. There are a lot of BTUs available in biodiesel. That means more power and better fuel economy. It also has a high lubricity ratio. So, when we can use more biodiesel, that’s going to provide better performance for customers, and also potentially lower our diesel retail price.”
Sustainability as Core Value
Then there’s sustainability, which is not only about meeting customer demand. Sustainability has become a core piece of Kum & Go’s culture. That’s demonstrated not only in the fuel lineup but also the more than 100 LEED-certified stores they’ve built, the availability of recycling at fuel dispensers and other initiatives.
“Kum & Go sees biofuel blends fitting into our sustainability goals in a couple of different ways,” Pirolli said. “First of all, we’re located in one of the highest-producing regions for corn and soybeans, and that means that, by promoting biofuels at our stores, we’re helping farmers achieve a better corn or soybean price and are supporting domestic production of biofuels. And then we’re offering customers in the local regions a better economic value on their fuel.”
Jon Scharingson oversees the sales and marketing efforts for Renewable Energy Group Inc., a leading biodiesel producer.