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  The Herman Trend Alert

June 13, 2007

The Future of Biodiesel

To look at the fascinating future of biodiesel, we interviewed Russell Teall, president of Biodiesel Industries in Santa Barbara, California, the firm that now operates the largest number of biodiesel production facilities worldwide. “There’s a certain inevitability to it,” said Teall when asked about biodiesel’s future. Given the rapid consumption of fossil fuels, “it’s not a matter of “if” but “when”.

Biodiesel is a nontoxic, biodegradable replacement for petroleum diesel. Made from vegetable oil, recycled cooking oil, and tallow, biodiesel contains a similar number of BTUs as petroleum diesel, translating to similar engine performance in torque and horsepower.

After years of research and development, the company established its first commercial unit in December 2000. It has been installing Modular Production Units (MPUs) around the globe, each capable of producing up to 10 million gallons of biodiesel per year. The footprint of an MPU is only 50 by 60 ft. and it is designed to run in parallel with another unit.

One such tandem operation is located at a United States Navy installation in California. The Navy is the world's largest consumer of diesel fuel. Given the Navy’s progressive attitude, it is not surprising to see the Navy embracing this new technology. Using solar energy, the Navy is experimenting with a range of feed stocks to make its biodiesel.

The latest developments: the production of new feed stocks, grown on marginal land, that do not displace food-grade plants and the creation of MPUs using algae with the by-products from a power plant and municipal waster water system. Using the waste water nutrients, the algae scrubs the CO2 power plant exhaust and yields up to 10 times more oil than any other known crop. It’s an incredibly efficient use of photosynthesis.

The nature of biodiesel technology features a distributed model, producing and consuming the fuel locally. The dwindling supplies of fossil fuels are a global States’ issue; Biodiesel Industries has conducted feasibilitiy studies in Argentina, Canada, China, Ghana, India, Israel, Mexico, the Philippines, and Thailand. In fact, Teall will deliver a workshop on biodiesel in Singapore July 23-24. (For more information, click here.)


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