Feb 28, 2008

The price of biodiesel

Fellow Biodiesel Drivers ::

We have all noticed the increase in fuel prices over the last six months. During this period, SeQuential and our network of distributors have not changed margins on biodiesel, meaning that these price increases are from the increased costs for producing biodiesel.

About 40% of the biodiesel SeQuential distributes comes from recycled cooking oil and most of the rest comes from soybean oil grown in the Midwest. This will continue to be the case in the short term, as local production from recycled oil increases; as Oregon production of oilseed crops increases (currently about 10% of our supply); and as technology companies develop alternative feedstocks, such as algae. As demand for soybean oil has increased of late, so has the price. In addition, a major ingredient in biodiesel production is methanol, which increased in price by about 300% since September 2007. We will do everything we can to get price relief.

We understand that these price increases are hard on your wallet, so we want to take a moment to say that we appreciate your dedication to and support of biofuels. We are all in this together, and together, we are growing a renewable fuels industry and bringing better fuel options to Oregon.

Feb 26, 2008

Register Guard Opinion Piece

The Register Guard just published an opinion piece by Ian Hill, a co-founder of SeQuential, in regards to recent articles about biofuels:

Oregon’s lower carbon biofuel industry

by Ian Hill

In response to recent articles claiming that the use of biofuel leads to increases in global warming, we would like to point out that not all biofuels are crated equal. The biodiesel and ethanol sold through our SeQuential retail station here in Eugene is some of the most sustainably-produced fuel currently available in the country.

The SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel (SQPB) production plant in Salem uses recycled cooking oil from sources such as Kettle Foods, Burgerville etc. A small but growing percentage of the SQPB facility uses Oregon-grown canola oil that is grown as a rotational crop with wheat. Canola is typically grown one year in four to enhance soil quality, breaks up pest cycles and increases wheat yields. Other oilseed crops that can be grown on land not suitable for food production or in rotation with food crops are being currently researched by OSU.

It is important to note that the SQPB facility’s technology can efficiently produce quality biodiesel from a wide range of vegetable oils. This gives SQPB the ability to adapt to new sources of oil as they develop, such as certain types of algae which are the most efficient photo-synthetic producer of oil on the planet and can be grown using agricultural & municipal waste streams.

The majority of the ethanol that is sold through our retail station is sourced from Pacific Ethanol’s facility located in Boardman OR. This facility does use corn as its primary feedstock for producing ethanol. What makes this facility different is that they use ~30% less energy then most contemporary ethanol production facilities. They do this by selling most of their wet distiller grains (or WDGS the main by product of ethanol production) directly into a local livestock feed market.

Another item of interest about Pacific’s Boardman facility is that they recently received a Federal Department of Energy grant to build a pilot scale cellulose to ethanol production facility. This facility will focus on technology allowing the production of ethanol from local feed stocks such as wheat straw, corn stover & wood chips.

On a County level, there are a number of research projects underway that are looking at a variety of renewable energy sources. Such as anaerobic digestion utilizing food waste for energy production and pyrolysis technology for converting carbon based waste material into different forms of usable energy including liquid forms like butanol (a gasoline replacement).

These examples of Oregon-made biofuels are derived from raw materials that do not compete with food-producing acres. As a result, these biofuels reduce life cycle carbon emissions by 40 to 80 percent compared to standard petroleum-based fuels.

Oregon (and the Pacific Northwest) leads the nation with our use of high blends of biodiesel, specifically B99 (99.9% biodiesel). Oregon & Washington have the largest markets in the country for retail biodiesel. Government & business fleets in Oregon such as the City of Eugene, the City of Portland, Rexius, Sanipac, LTD and Tri-Met to name a few have proven that they are willing to vote with their fuel budgets to support Oregon made biofuel. This kind of support is critical to building a better, localized biofuel industry. From our municipal governments, to businesses with fleets, to the individual consumer the Northwest is leading the way in the development of a localized biofuel industry.

The work to build a localized, cleaner, sustainable energy economy is an important incremental step, not an overnight miracle. Our company is named SeQuential for this very reason. There is no single panacea to our current energy crisis. Rather we are faced with a diversity of solutions that must be pursued simultaneously. Conservation taking the form of higher efficiency diesel & gasoline vehicles, increasing the use of electric vehicles, greater use of public transit systems, riding bikes and walking are all solutions that must also be employed.

As a company we are committed to helping build an Oregon based, lower carbon biofuel industry that is cleaner burning and that supports our local economy. SeQuential can only do this in partnership with our customers.

Ian Hill is a Co-Founder of SeQuential Biofuels, an Oregon-based retail biofuels company that provides biofuel blends for every vehicle.

Feb 18, 2008

The daily commute

We all have to work, be it in an office, a service job, or caring for the family and getting around requires some sort of transportation. There are many ways to get around; driving, biking, busing, etc., all of which have their own trade offs in terms of convenience and emissions.

can be the most convenient way of getting around (baring traffic jams), but out of all of the alternatives, driving weighs in at the high end of emissions. There are, of course, many jobs and situations where driving is essential, so it is fortunate that cleaner-burning biofuel is available!

On a per-person basis, the more people you can get into a car, the better. The average car, over the course of a year, emits about 12,100 pounds of carbon dioxide (
calculate your CO2 emissions here - for gas burning cars using petroleum only).
Carpooling can cut this number down significantly - one person per car emits 12,100 pounds of CO2 per person. Four people in that car would only emit about 3,025 pounds of CO2 per person. Talk to your co-workers and see if you can organize a carpool!

Speaking of emissions per person,
riding the bus (or light rail) is another great option with most buses fitting 40+ people on board. The tradeoff is that buses are on a fixed schedule and have fixed routes. That said, bus routes go along major arterials and chances are that there is a bus heading to where you need to go. If you factor in the time it takes to find a parking spot, buses can be faster than driving. Plus, most public buses use biofuels!

I am an avid
bicyclist, so I love having the opportunity to ride into work. Having put in substantial hours driving for work in the past (pizza delivery), I realize how lucky I am to live close to work (4 miles) and to drive so infrequently. Riding a bike is a non-polluting way to get around and is good exercise to boot! Biking is slower than any of the other options (and there is always the chance of getting caught out in the rain), but since it is so clean, it is a winner in my book.

like Zipcar (who recently acquired Flexcar) are another great option - even if you mainly use an alternative to driving, there are sometimes where you just need a car. Being able to rent a car for a few hours works great for a lot of people, but it does require some planning for your reservation.

Here at SeQuential, almost all of us own cars, but we don't always use them. Having our office be in downtown Portland means there are lots of transportation alternatives that we are very lucky to have. On the average day, these are the main ways SeQuential's administrative staff get to work:

  • Alan, retail manager: biodiesel car
  • Bo, development: bus, bike
  • Ciara, retail manager: biodiesel car
  • Carrie, accounting: bus, bike
  • Dave, CEO: bike, running
  • Gavin, sales: bus, biodiesel car
  • Gloria, accounting: walking, ethanol car
  • Ian, founder: bus, walking, biodiesel car
  • Sasha, marketing: bike
  • Sue, marketing: bike
  • Tomas, founder: bus, biodiesel car
  • Tyson, founder: bus, biodiesel car
  • Will, marketing: bus

Feb 8, 2008

Not all biofuels are made the same

(This is a quick response to the New York Times article that came out today http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/08/science/earth/08wbiofuels.htm)

As you know, not all biofuels are made the same; cutting down the rainforest to grow biofuel crops is a terrible idea. Growing crops locally has been proven thru many studies to create lowered emissions and a net gain of energy over the life cycle of the fuel. Life cycle assessments follow a product from "cradle to grave" and all the inputs in between; for biofuels, this would be taking everything from planting, to fertilizing, harvesting, transport, conversion, distribution and combustion, into consideration.

Soybean-based biodiesel (grown in the US) has a lifecycle impact of lowering carbon dioxide emissions by 78% as compared to petroleum diesel. (http://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/fy98/24089.pdf)

SeQuential has always relied upon government laboratory research; we feel it is the least biased source we can find. If you want to do some further reading, here is a page with a whole bunch of links to documents that support the benefits of biofuels: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/publications.html.

Most studies are done with Midwest grown soybean based biodiesel. The SeQuential-Pacific plant in Salem primarily makes biodiesel out of used cooking oil, adding the element of recycling into the mix. I have not seen any studies on how many times better this makes the environmental impact, but I imagine it is many-fold.