>Speaker: Graham Noyes
>Graham Noyes is the Director of US West operations for World Energy
>Alternatives (www.worldenergy.net), an alternative fuels company based in
>Chelsea, Massachusetts that sells ethanol, CNG and biodiesel. Mr. Noyes will
>describe the opportunities that biodiesel, currently the most rapidly growing
>alternative fuel in the country, provides for the transportation and power
>generation industries in California.
>Biodiesel is derived from vegetable oil, either virgin or used, through a
>process known as transesterification. The fuel has been tested extensively
>and delivers comparable performance to petroleum diesel fuel with better
>lubricity than low sulfur diesel. Its primary advantages are that it is
>completely non-toxic and biodegradable and reduces harmful emissions.
>Because it is derived from crops, biodiesel has a carbon-neutral cycle that
>does not contribute to global warming, and it is completely renewable.
>Biodiesel can be run in any diesel engine without modification. Mr. Noyes
>will make his own biodiesel running VW TDI Jetta available for viewing after
The luncheon began with the news that Mr. Noyes had been called away by the Arizona Legislature to give them a presentation about his product, so both he and his car were not available today. Instead Tom Burke, also of World Energy, would be showing us a video about biodiesel and answering questions.
The video began by explaining that biodiesel is made from soybean oil, and has the same burning characteristics as normal diesel, so that no engine modifications are required. It is the perfect thing for government fleets that need to reach a certain alternative fuels use targets to be in compliance with the law. To dramatize how reliable a fuel it can be, they had footage of a guy that spent two years circumnavigating the earth in a ship whose engines only used biodiesel for the voyage.
Many interesting tidbits came out during the Q&A, which are summarized below:
The current target market for biodiesel is things like municipal bus fleets, for whom using it is a very cost effective way to increase the renewable percentage in their fuel use portfolio. Because the stuff costs about sixty cents more than fossil fuel diesel per gallon, it is not expected to be a big hit in the consumer marketplace.
Biodiesel gives three times as much fuel energy as it takes to grow and make the stuff. Because trying to supply modern societies energy needs would take far more cropland than is currently available, World Energy does not expect it to replace more than five percent of our current use patterns.
When you start using the stuff in a diesel engine, after the first tank or two the fuel filters will probably have to be cleaned because biodiesel has a way of "cleaning the pipes." After that no unusual maintenance is required.
World energy is currently waiting for their first shipment of 25,000 gallons of the stuff, which they have done enough "premarketing" on that they expect to sell it without any trouble.
Biodiesel does not produce the clouds of smoke that most people associate with diesel busses. Burke watched Noyes start his car last week, and he had to get down on his knees by the exhaust pipe looking for some odor. Apparently a car running on biodiesel smells a little bit like popcorn, but is almost odor free.
There are currently two biodiesel plants operating in the US, one in Nebraska and one in Florida. The only step that is required to make soybean oil into biodiesel is to remove the glycerin. Somebody is looking into building one in San Francisco to process used kitchen oil and the like. The only question there is whether the economies of scale are present to make it cost effective.