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Texas BioDiesel Ban

BioDiesel NOx Levels Higher than Petroleum Diesel

Biodiesel production is on the rise in Texas, despite impending state regulations which would ban the sell of biodiesel blends in more than 100 Texas Counties. In November 2005, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in an effort to reduce ozone-polluting NOx emissions, enacted a (sales limiting) standard; Texas Low Emission Diesel ("TexLED") program. The ban on selling biodiesel would (hopefully) help reduce pollutants in what is considered to be the states smoggiest counties which are along and to the east of Interstate 35. In December 2006, TCEQ extended the plan for an additional year. According to spokespersons from BioSelect Fuels (Houston) and the Biodiesel Coalition of Texas (BCOT), this decision is a clear and positive statement concerning the use of Biodiesel and Biodiesel-blended fuel in Texas. B100, 100% biodiesel meets the technical specifications for the TexLED program in regards to cetane and aromatic standards but TCEQ wants confirmation that the blending of biodiesel with qualifying formulations of diesel will create a comparable NOx emission profile.

Biofuel LED Additive Released

The implementation of the TxLED program is based on the assumption that biodiesel increases nitrogen oxide emissions which might affect ozone formation. The biodiesel industry and State Regulators are waiting for a report from the EPA on NOx emission levels from B20 ( 20% blended biodiesel ). Meanwhile, BCOT is working with HARC ( Houston Advanced Research Center ) in an effort to bring scientific evidence along with engine and chassis dynamometer testing to demonstrate that biodiesel is neutral when it comes to NOx emissions. In March 2007, a biodiesel fuel additive (ORYXE LED) to reduce NOx emissions produced by Oryxe International was (tentatively) approved by the TCEQ.

Final approval remains dependent on actual emissions performance in diesel engines using B20. B20 is a blend of 80% petroleum diesel with 20% biodiesel. According to ORYXE CEO James Cleary, the additive includes both hydrocarbon compounds and renewable-based materials, is already being used in petroleum diesel sold in Texas but, at a lower mixture ratio than what would be required for biodiesel blends. The company's ORYXE LED blending facility in Pasadena, Texas and is operated by Afton Chemical. ORYXE LED can be proportionally-injected with today's standard Federal diesel at the terminal or refinery loading rack with minimal hardware expense. When added to biodiesel, the proportionally-injected additive alters the dynamics of combustion allowing the fuel to burn more completely, thereby improving fuel performance and reducing pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM), total hydrocarbons (THC) and carbon monoxide.

Reportedly, treating Diesel with the LED additive only costs pennies per gallon and they have been shown to reduce the smog creating pollutants, biodiesel producers are concerned about anything that would increase the cost at the pump. Current Eastern Texas biodiesel production facilities would likely be happy if the additive is approved because it means they can continue to sell their product in the part of the country where it is more likely to be used year round. There are more than a dozen existing commercial biodiesel plants in Texas with several more planned or under construction and that is expected to increase production capacity to some 250 million gallons in 2007.
Even with the uncertainty and related negative impact of the TxLed program, new biodiesel production facilities continue to come online but, both public and private fleets are understandably hesitating before implementing widespread use of the biofuel. Should biodiesel blending be banned, additive based strategies would be have to be used which could easily outweigh any cost advantage that biodiesel might provide.

Ethanol is Different

Consider how ethanol is produced, corn is grown, harvested and converted to energy. The harvested corn is ground up, mixed with water, fermented and finally, becomes a mixture that is only about 8 percent ethanol. This product must then be distilled repeatedly until it eventually becomes almost pure ethanol. Growing and harvesting the corn, heating and reheating the fermented corn to produce ethanol requires a vast amount of energy and multiple resources. Ethanol production includes the use of fossil fuels and other Renewable Energy Sources to extrude alcohol from corn, produce fertilizers and insecticides, transport crops and dispose of wastewater. The production process results in ethanol that reportedly contains 65 percent less usable energy than is consumed in the process of making it. Ethanol production uses fossil fuels as a primary resource. According to a recent study at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley,  it takes 29 percent more fossil fuel energy to make ethanol from corn than the fuel produced.  This number is generated based on all the steps necessary to produce ethanol; oil to run the tractors that work the fields, natural gas to heat the fermented corn, and more (oil) fuel to transport the ethanol by truck or railroad to the refineries, and ultimately, the E85 filling stations.

 Related:
 BioDiesel Generator - ERCOT
 BioDiesel Stations in Texas
 Chevron Biodiesel Plant in Texas
 Biodiesel Plant in Houston

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