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Winter brings lower biodiesel prices

By LACEY JARRELL

Capital Press

Biodiesel is selling for prices comparable to petroleum-based diesel, experts say. In addition it's available in a variety of blends.

Winter down time is typically the best time to purchase biodiesel in bulk, according to Dick Fennimore, Wilco petroleum department manager.

“The cheapest prices we’ve seen have been in December and January,” he said.

Biodiesel is rated according to its blend, a 5 percent blend is B5, a 100 percent blend is B99.

Wilco delivers biodiesel blends ranging from B20 to B99; the minimum delivery purchase is 100 gallons.

Fennimore said a 100-gallon purchase of B50 is 83 cents more per gallon than B5, but the per-gallon price gets lower when buying in larger quantities.

Biodiesel prices are more consistent than petroleum-based diesel, said Gavin Carpenter, vice president of sales and marketing of Sequential Biofuels.

“Prices are competitive if not less than regular diesel,” he said. “We were right about on par with last year’s (petroleum diesel).”

Biodiesel runs about 78 percent cleaner than petroleum diesel, emission wise, Carpenter said.

Because biodiesel has greater lubricity than petroleum diesel, it cleans fuel intake systems.

Today’s diesel contains less sulfur, which acted as a lubricant, meaning petroleum diesel can leave a build-up.

“Biodiesel is actually a solvent. Even a 2 percent blend of biodiesel will offset that and reduce wear and tear,” Carpenter said.

Biodiesel runs similar to petroleum-based diesel, but initial conversion may take some extra maintenance, according to Fennimore.

“When converting from B5 to at least a B20, we recommend having one or two extra fuel filters on hand,” he said.

Cold flow, or “gelling,” issues can arise with high blends exposed to temperatures lower than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but gelling can be reduced by blending the fuel with petroleum-based diesel, said Carpenter.

Wilco also offers anti-gel additives, said Fennimore.

Most diesel in Oregon is a 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent petroleum diesel blend, which should not gel.

West of the Cascades, gelling shouldn’t be an issue, said Carpenter. If B99 begins gelling, he said equipment should be placed in a garage or other shelter before starting. He said any biodiesel with a 20 percent or less blend should be fine year-round.

“When storing a (100 percent) blend, the tank should be heated and have a silicate vent so no moisture can enter,” Fennimore said.

According to Carpenter, another benefit of using biodiesel is it supports the region’s economy by sourcing materials from local businesses, they said.

SeQuential’s biodiesel, made from yellow grease like cooking and fryer oil, is collected from 7,000 Northwest restaurant and grocery locations.

“Biodiesel keeps every dollar in the region,” he said.

SeQuential has biofuel plants in Oregon and Washington. The Salem, Ore., facility has already produced 6 million gallons of biodiesel this year.

Five retail pumps in Portland, two in Eugene, and one in Aurora sell B99, but in winter months the company reduces that to a 50/50 blend.

Carpenter does not recommend making biodiesel at home because of flammability dangers and potential engine damage caused by fuel not made within the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) specifications.



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