Soybean South

 - Marketing -

New At The Pump

Soy Biodiesel is popping up all over Mississippi, offering farmers, truckers and
motorists another fuel option that also benefits soybean producers.

 

By Bob Ratliff

Signs of the times are appearing along Mississippi highways. Billboards proclaiming the availability of “Soy Biodiesel” are up in the Jackson area and other locations throughout the state.

While biodiesel still is not a household word, it is more widely recognized than it was just a year ago when the fuel was available to commercial customers at just a handful of Mississippi outlets.

For about two years, Mississippi farmers and other commercial customers could buy soy biodiesel from a few suppliers in the state, but it was not really available at retail pumps until January 2005, when Earth Biofuels Inc. opened a service station selling B20 biodiesel in Byram, a Jackson suburb.

“The average person probably isn’t that familiar with biodiesel,” says Bill Carpenter, chief financial officer for Earth Biofuels. “We opened this facility (at Byram) as a vehicle to introduce the product to the general public.”

Biodiesel prices, Carpenter added, have been running a penny or two below petroleum diesel prices recently, and his company, which operates a manufacturing facility in Meridian, has not been able to keep up with demand for the product. “We’re upgrading the facility in Meridian and plan to open a second one in Oklahoma,” he says.

Other suppliers also began providing biodiesel to retail outlets during the past year, including Dickerson Petroleum in Kosciusko, which is supplying stations in Kosciusko, the Jackson area and Meridian.

“There have been a lot of questions to answer for customers about biodiesel, and it does take some extra handling because it has to be blended,” says owner Kirk Dickerson. “I’m running it (biodiesel) in my truck, and I’ve noticed the engine runs quieter with the biodiesel.”

Biodiesel capacity has been on a steady increase. The United Soybean Board estimates the 2005 production of the nation’s 35 soy biodiesel plants at 50 million gallons of pure soydiesel, and the total is expected to double as more processing plants come online in 2006.

“With production capacity on the rise, we hope it becomes more readily available to truckers and the general public,” says Morgan Beckham, chairman of the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board. “The ideal situation will be to have biodiesel offered at the pump in B2, B5 and B20 blends.”

Bob Ratliff is with the Ag Communications Department at Mississippi State University. Contact him at bobr@ext.msstate.edu.


How To Increase Demand For Soy Biodiesel

The increased availability of soy biodiesel is good news for soybean producers.

“If every trucker switched to a B2 soy biodiesel blend, it would increase use of soybeans by 474 million bushels a year,” says Jerry Slocum, a soybean producer and member of the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board. “Use of the same blend in all diesel-powered farm equipment would consume an additional 51 million bushels.

“Producer support for research and development of soy biodiesel began in 1992,” the Mississippi producer says. “That support will pay off for producers in increased demand for their product and for the nation in decreased demand for foreign oil.”

Tax incentives for processors in the 2005 federal energy bill have helped make biodiesel more competitive with pure petroleum diesel. Another reason for increased interest in biodiesel is an Environmental Protection Agency mandate calling for the removal of sulfur from petroleum diesel beginning in 2007.

“The removal of sulfur is going to be great for the environment in terms of eliminating pollutants, but it will cause problems for diesel engines because sulfur helps lubricate the fuel pump and the engine itself,” says Mississippi State University ag engineer Herb Wilcutt.

“Something (like soy biodiesel) will have to be added to diesel to restore the lubrication lost by removing the sulfur,” he adds.

Soy biodiesel has the qualities needed to provide the necessary lubrication for diesel engines.

“Adding just a 2 percent blend of soy biodiesel to the fuel will enhance lubrication to above where it is with conventional petroleum diesel today,” Wilcutt says.