Back in December, 18 soybean growers from 10 states tripped to New York City. It was no Christmas shopping trip. They were there to see how the Big Apple was preparing to shift to biodiesel – and their soybean oil – in a huge way this year.
New York City is a major biodiesel user. As Tom Verry, director of development for the National Biodiesel Board, says, "It's the perfect place to show soybean farmers how their long-term vision for biodiesel and Bioheat has become a reality."
What they found was NYC infrastructure already pumping biodiesel and ready to be part of the nation's largest market for Bioheat, a blend of biodiesel and home heating oil. Beginning in October, all Big Apple residents will switch from petroleum-based heating oil to blends containing at least 2% biodiesel, or a B2 blend of Bioheat.
Soy-based fuel already powers Big Apple vehicles, furnaces and generators year-round and can be found throughout the city from Central Park to John F. Kennedy Airport. The parks department, alone, has used B20 Bioheat to heat buildings throughout its grounds. It fills 186 fuel oil tanks each day and has operated with Bioheat year-round for more than two years.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey relies on biodiesel to fuel operations at JFK Airport, ports, marine terminals and rail transit systems. From airport shuttles and buses, to the plows clearing snow during emergencies, the port authority uses a B20 blend 365 days a year. That blend could increase to B50 in the future, according to port officials.
Steven Levy of Sprague Energy, a leading biodiesel supplier in the area, says those three agencies use about 11 million gallons of biodiesel blends a year. The blends range from 5% to 50% biodiesel.
The farmers on the trip represented the United Soybean Board, state checkoff boards and affiliates of the American Soybean Association. They included: Brian Kemp, Sibley, Iowa; Duane Dahlman, Marengo, Ill.; John Wray, Ottawa, Kan.; Kurt Maurath, Oakley, Kan.; Michael Harrison, Woodbine, Md.; Brian Greenslit, Franklin, Minn.; Ed Lammers, Hartington, Neb.; Terry Horky, Sargent, Neb.; Mike Korth, Randolph, Neb.; Norm Husa, Barneston, Neb.; Greg Anderson, Newman Grove, Neb.; Loyd Pointer, Sargent, Neb.; Terry McClure, Grover Hill, Ohio; Bob Metz, West Brown Valley, S.D.; David Nichols, Ridgely, Tenn.; Lewis Bainbridge, Ethan, S.D.; Joel Thorsrud, Hillsboro, N.D.; and Jim Willers, Beaver Creek, Minn.
The Northeast is the number one U.S. market for home heating oil. And, New England states are already encouraging the B2 switch. The entire home heating oil market holds huge potential for biodiesel plus the soybean oil that can be used to produce it.
"Bioheat gives them the opportunity to use something cleaner," confirms Jim Willers, a farmer-director for Minnesota's soybean checkoff program. "There's a lot of potential for biodiesel use there."
Heating oil marketers have embraced biofuels to help protect their market from natural gas. They helped bring the 2% requirement in New York City to fruition. Many already offer Bioheat to residential customers.
The heating oil industry also set an aggressive goal to completely replace petroleum-based heating oil with a B100 blend of Bioheat by 2050. The industry notes its favorable opinion of soy biodiesel because of its consistent quality and cold-flow properties. And, conventional oil furnaces can burn up to 20% Bioheat blends."It was exciting for us to see the passion in New York City for biodiesel, noted Greg Anderson. "New York City represents more than just another market for biodiesel. It's a strategic partner in furthering biodiesel acceptance in the Northeast and nationwide."