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.