Soybean South

 - Alternative Fuel -

Fueled By SoyDiesel

Arkansas investors are putting their money, faith and enthusiasm in a new independent soy biodiesel processing plant slated to open in early 2006.
 

By Carroll Smith

For the past few years, soy biodiesel has been making its way into the Southern region as more and more Southern soybean producers have begun asking their fuel distributors to carry it even though it costs a couple of cents more than petroleum diesel.

One of the obstacles that distributors faced, however, was the sometimes prohibitive freight costs of shipping in B100, or biodiesel, from suppliers in the Midwest and other parts of the country. Biodiesel is an alternative fuel that doesn’t contain petroleum but can be blended with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. The blends most commonly used in agriculture are B2 (2 percent biodiesel) and B5 (five percent biodiesel).

Since biodiesel is made through a chemical process in which the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil (including soybean oil), soybean producers are most interested in burning soy biodiesel blends.

Slashes B100 freight cost
Today, major progress is being made in Arkansas as Patriot BioFuels, a biodiesel company based in Little Rock, makes plans to open a B100 production facility in Stuttgart. Noal Lawhon, one of the biggest proponents of the soybean/diesel blend, is investing in the Stuttgart plant following a five-year multi-faceted campaign to promote the use of SoyDiesel.

Lawhon, who is president and owner of Delta King Seed, says, “We will be taking soybean oil and converting it to soy biodiesel (B100), then shipping it to local distributors who will blend it with petroleum diesel to create soy diesel blends. This cuts out the big freight cost of having to bring B100 in from the Midwest.”

The seed dealer says the Stuttgart plant is small, but will probably be the first one of several.

“Once we get this facility up and operating, then we feel like we can move to a higher level,” Lawhon says, adding that one of their priorities is to use soybean oil generated from soybeans grown in Arkansas.

Following Lawhon’s investment in November, the Fund for Arkansas’ Future (FAF), announced in January that it also has invested in Patriot BioFuels. Investors with the early stage investment fund based in Little Rock are seeking investment opportunities in Arkansas-based companies with rapid growth potential.

Jeff Stinson, FAF’s executive director, says, “The investors in the Fund for Arkansas’ Future recognize what’s happening in the biodiesel industry nationwide and believe the potential for biodiesel growth in Arkansas is substantial. We believe Patriot is poised to be the state’s leader in the biofuels industry.”

The 31,000-square-foot plant is supposed to be producing biodiesel by early spring of this year.

According to the Fund for Arkansas’ Future, “Heavy users of biodiesel include school buses, transit buses, freight companies and farmers. More than 35 biodiesel plants have opened across the country; Patriot Biofuels is the first independent producer in Arkansas.”

The company’s board of directors includes experts from the state’s agriculture and fuel distribution industries and the venture capital community.

Committed to SoyDiesel
Meanwhile, Lawhon continues to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to SoyDiesel.

Last September, he and all of the Delta King sales reps switched to diesel pickups so they can use SoyDiesel. Last October, Delta King Seed announced its SoyDiesel Essay Scholarship Contest that is designed to fund higher education and to promote the development and use of SoyDiesel in the United States. A total of $12,500 will be awarded to five high school seniors and college freshmen, with each winner receiving an individual scholarship amount of $2,500.

Lawhon’s most recent effort on behalf of SoyDiesel involved bringing a new SoyDiesel Ambassador on board at Delta King. David Fraser will travel throughout the Mid-South, calling on key farmers and petroleum jobbers with the objective of educating them about SoyDiesel’s benefits.

“Brother, I’m convinced!” Lawhon says. “I’m convinced that SoyDiesel is good for the environment, that it’s good for the Mid-South economy, and that it’s good for our country because SoyDiesel can help reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.”

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or csmith@onegrower.com.


Farmer Interest Keeps Increasing

Almost five years ago, Noal Lawhon, president and owner of Delta King Seed Co., convinced his fuel distributor Vance Thompson with M.D. Thompson & Son Co. in McCrory, Ark., to bring in B100 so Lawhon would have access to soy biodiesel blends. Thompson secured the shipment, and Delta King started running SoyDiesel in its entire delivery fleet.

However, Lawhon’s commitment didn’t stop there. He then went on a campaign to get area farmers to use a soy biodiesel blend in their farm equipment. Many of them agreed with the seed dealer’s rationale that it made sense to support a new market for the crop they were producing.

Thompson, who was one of the first two biodiesel suppliers in the state, says that today about two-thirds of his volume is SoyDiesel.

“I have the B100 in storage, and we carry it in bulk trucks and sell it to customers who have bulk tanks,” Thompson says. “The majority of them are using B2 (2 percent soy biodiesel, 98 percent petroleum diesel), but we can blend any percentage into their tanks.”

The fuel distributor says he sees interest growing in SoyDiesel every year.

“Right now we are offering soy biodiesel as a choice to customers who want it,” Thompson explains. “But at some point in time, as interest in soy biodiesel continues to grow, I anticipate that all our diesel sales will be soy biodiesel.

“Our customers are wanting to burn the fuel that comes from the crops that they raise in our area,” he adds.



Biodiesel Myths & Facts

Myth: Biodiesel doesn’t perform well in cold weather.
Fact: Biodiesel will gel in very cold temperatures, just as the common #2 diesel does. Although pure biodiesel has a higher cloud point than #2 diesel fuel, typical blends of 20 percent biodiesel are managed with the same fuel management techniques as #2 diesel fuel. Blends of 5 percent biodiesel and less have virtually no impact on cold flow.

Myth: A low blend of biodiesel in diesel fuel will cost too much.
Fact: Using a 2 percent blend of biodiesel is estimated to increase the cost of diesel by 2 or 3 cents per gallon, including the fuel, transportation, storage and blending costs. Any increase in cost will be accompanied by an increase in diesel quality since low-blend levels of biodiesel greatly enhance the lubricity of diesel fuel.

Myth: Engine warranty coverage would be at risk.
Fact: The use of biodiesel in existing diesel engines does not void parts and materials workmanship warranties of any major U.S. engine manufacturer.

Myth: Biodiesel causes filters to plug up.
Fact: Pure biodiesel (B100) has a solvent effect, which may release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes from previous diesel fuel use. With high blends of biodiesel, the release of deposits may clog filters initially and precautions should be taken to replace fuel filters until the petroleum buildup is eliminated. This issue is less prevalent with B20 blends, and there is no evidence that lower-blend levels such as B2 have caused filters to plug up.

Source: National Biodiesel Board