By Brian Levine, Executive Vice President, Greasezilla 

Special to The Digest 

In the United States, efforts to replace fossil fuels with biofuels are gaining momentum, supported by  growing public awareness, government programs and emerging waste-to-fuel technologies. The  Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) analysis of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) projected that  several types of biofuels, such as biodiesel, could yield lower lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions  than gasoline over a 20-year period. 

The pursuit of newer, cleaner options for biofuel production, such as biodiesel, attempt to reduce the  effects of fossil fuel production and use, including emissions and depletion of non-renewable resources.  Biodiesel is made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources, using a variety of fats, oils and grease.  Most commonly biodiesel is added in concentrations of B5 (up to five percent biodiesel) and B20 (six to  20 percent biodiesel). Pure biodiesel (B100) can fuel standard diesel engines with modifications. 

Regulations and Incentives 

In the U.S., increased state and federal incentives and regulations are making biofuel production and use  more desirable. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, adopted in 2009, California is trying to reduce the 

state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. The LCFS is designed to reduce the  state’s GHG emissions by decreasing the carbon intensity of California’s transportation fuel pool and  providing an increasing range of low-carbon and renewable alternatives. 

The LCFS standards appear to be working. LCFS statistics report that in 2018, renewable liquid fuels  replaced over 568 million gallons of diesel. From the beginning of LCFS through the end of 2018, almost  3.3 billion gallons of petroleum diesel have been displaced by clean, low-carbon alternatives. 

Another initiative on the West Coast, the Pacific Coast Collaborative, connects jurisdictions in  Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia to strategically align policies that promote clean  energy throughout the region. 

In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive  Program (HBIIP), offering up to $100 million in competitive grants for activities designed to expand the  availability and sale of renewable fuels. The intent is to increase the sale and use of higher blends of  ethanol and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels. 

Emerging technologies for FOG-based feedstocks 

In addition to regulations and incentives, expanding feedstock options are also promoting the production  of biodiesel. While vegetable oils, especially soybean oil, are the primary feedstocks for U.S. biodiesel  production, biodiesel can be created from nearly any feedstock that contains free fatty acids (FFA). Since  feedstocks can represent up to 80 percent of operational expenses for production, the use of FOG for  biodiesel production is rapidly growing in popularity. 

FOG, considered a nuisance waste, provides a readily available source for low-cost biofuel feedstock.  Companies are adapting pretreatment systems to include waste fats from processing plants and  restaurants. These emerging FOG management technologies are helping to address multiple issues  concurrently. By utilizing waste instead of farmland, FOG doesn’t compete with food production. FOG  does not require the use of arable land, water or labor for agricultural production. Additionally, recovering  resources from FOG reduces the impact of landfilling and the use of chemicals traditionally used in FOG  disposal. 

In particular, an emerging technology that produces a high-quality waste feedstock is Greasezilla, a  hydronic thermal FOG separation system, developed by Downey Ridge Environmental Company. The  system takes the grease trap waste produced by food service and food manufacturing facilities, and  generates a low-moisture, high-FFA brown grease offtake—an ideal feedstock for biodiesel conversion.  Instead of purchasing materials needed for the feedstock, biodiesel plants can generate their own.  Greasezilla adds additional profitability to biodiesel production facilities by generating the feedstock in house from materials that haulers will pay to unload. 

Expanded to a hub-and-spoke operation, with multiple systems placed strategically across a region,  Greasezilla supports regular usage and access to high-quality input. By partnering with Downey Ridge  Environmental Company, who will fund the equipment, Greasezilla’s hub-and-spoke model can maximize  the recovery of renewable energy resources for biodiesel production and other industries. 

The power of public opinion 

While the U.S. is far from consensus on the fuel debate, the public is gradually moving toward greater  awareness of biofuels and the need for policies and incentives to promote them. As consumers and  citizens learn more about biodiesel, public support for these clean initiatives continues to grow. 

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) conducts annual surveys to gauge the public’s awareness of  biodiesel and attitudes toward policies that promote regulations and subsidies. In NBB’s 2019 survey, 54  percent of the respondents expressed positive impressions of biodiesel, with only three percent reflecting 

negative impressions and 44 percent having no opinion. Further, the survey also shows that respondents  with an awareness of biofuels are more likely to support government programs and regulations promoting  the production and use of biodiesel. 

Moving toward cleaner fuels 

With new waste-to-fuel technologies, government initiatives and public support, the U.S. is realizing a  steady growth in biodiesel. The U.S. Energy Information Administrative (EIA) recently reported that the  U.S. exported a total of 7,400 barrels of biodiesel per day in 2019—an increase of 10 percent from 2018. 

In fact, even the COVID-19 pandemic has had a minimal effect on biofuels. The U.S. Energy Information  Administration (EIA) reports that while motor gasoline demand has declined significantly since March  2020 alongside virus mitigation efforts, biodiesel has seen far smaller reductions compared with other  transportation fuels.

October 13, 2020. Biofuels Digest(online). “New feedstock options and trends boost biodiesel production.” Bylined article by Brian Levine