Biodiesel Activities and Efforts
The Idaho Governor's Office of Energy Resources is actively supporting the expansion of biodiesel fuel as it becomes an even greater share of Idaho's fuel mix. Idaho is experiencing a rapid growth of biodiesel use and clearly has the potential to expand it to a viable industry. An estimated 40 percent of our diesel fuel could be grown and produced within the state. Biodiesel is not a "silver bullet," but it can increase national and state energy security, improve air quality and contribute significantly to a strong economy.
Interest and demand are high. Although Idaho has the second highest per-capita diesel use rate in the U.S., it is also "diesel short"; refining and pipeline space cannot currently meet growing needs. One of the biggest obstacles has been a lack of seed processing facilities in the state. In 2007, Diversified Fuels announced its plan to build the largest oil seed processing plant in the Northwest near Buhl, which will be capable of producing more than 40 million gallons of food grade oil annually. The company is investing an estimated $30 million in the first phase of construction.
In addition, an estimated 40 individuals or groups are already making their own biodiesel. In addition to commercial scale facilities, there are small-scale operations throughout the state:
- Brocke & Sons in Kendrick have a seed crusher and produce biodiesel for their equipment. They continue to expand and help other farmers install on-farm facilities.
- Eric Wassmuth operates six canola seed crushers in Cottonwood to produce biodiesel.
- Walker Farms of Idaho Falls also produces biodiesel.
With activities on many levels, the Idaho Governor's Office of Energy Resources is helping individuals and organizations that want to take advantage of biodiesel to supplement the diesel they purchase for their operations.
The Office is working closely with biodiesel advocacy groups to promote biodiesel use. Community and economic development councils, community organizations, state legislators, farm and other professional associations are all sponsoring educational programs on biodiesel. The Greater Yellowstone Clean Cities Coalition in Eastern Idaho and the Treasure Valley Clean Cities Coalition are both strong advocates for biodiesel, promoting biodiesel use and working with local fuel retailers to provide biodiesel filling stations. Many public and private stations are converting to a biodiesel-blended fuel, which is now available throughout most of Idaho.
In early 2001, the Energy Division, predecessor to the Idaho Governor's Office of Energy Resources, started a biodiesel commercialization effort called the B20 Project. This was a partnership program with local public and private sector organizations that paid any increased cost difference between a fuel blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel (B20), allowing fleets to test biodiesel in their operations and transition them to full-scale use. The program was successful; several fleets began to use biodiesel and continue to do so. The price of biodiesel actually dropped below the price of diesel by 2005, however, effectively ending the program.
In 2006, the Energy Division launched another effort to accelerate biodiesel availability when it issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting qualified licensed fuel wholesalers, fuel retailers and vehicle fleet operators to construct and/or install biodiesel infrastructure in Idaho. The intent was to improve the ability of private and/or non-federal public entities to store, transport or offer for sale biodiesel within the state. The RFP provided $289,000 for co-funding the projects with a minimum 50 percent cash cost match. As a result, about 36 fueling stations from Sandpoint to Boise are now providing biodiesel-blended fuel to the public.
The Idaho Governor's Office of Energy Resources has a long-standing relationship with the University of Idaho, an internationally recognized pioneer in biodiesel research. The Office served as liaison between the U.S. Department of Energy and the university for many years and has worked closely with the university on many biodiesel studies and projects with national and international implications.
Over the years, that relationship has evolved to a team focusing on building an Idaho biodiesel industry. Recently funded ongoing biodiesel activities conducted through or in partnership with the Office of Energy Resources include feasibility studies for commercial production facilities in the Treasure and Magic Valleys. The Office of Energy Resources and the university have coordinated to offer presentations and/or workshops on using and producing biodiesel as requested throughout the state. Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase, for example, wanted to make biodiesel available in the city and wanted the city fleet to be using it. A workshop to prepare for biodiesel utilization took place in Pocatello in January 2007; as a result, biodiesel is now available to the public and used successfully in the city fleet.
The team is now developing plans to work with the Idaho agricultural community to grow and market oil seed crops economically. The development of a biodiesel industry in the state would also provide a new market for oil seed crops and could provide an alternative rotation crop for wheat producers. Locally grown crops would also support the development of an oil seed crushing industry, which could potentially double the number of new jobs associated with the biodiesel industry.
Technical Support — Individual and Commercial
The Idaho Governor's Office of Energy Resources can provide technical advice and other support to those interested in building or expanding biodiesel operations. Over the past few years, various entities have investigated the construction of biodiesel production facilities in or adjacent to Idaho, and the Office is working to encourage and provide technical assistance to private-sector biodiesel plant development efforts.
In September 2006, for example, Blue Sky Biodiesel began commercial operation of a 10-million gallon per year biodiesel plant in New Plymouth. Initially, the plant is producing biodiesel from soy oil shipped into the site by rail, but the company is investigating local sources of yellow grease and tallow for future use. Energy Resources staff work with plant representatives regularly to provide technical advice relating to production, quality control and marketing. The Office has also consulted with groups in Rupert, Glenns Ferry, Lewiston, Buhl and other communities about potential biodiesel facilities.