Weather again played a role in feedstock markets and public perception in 2013. Portions of the Midwest struggled to plant corn, beans, and spring canola in a timely fashion. However, market analysts continue to forecast a near record crop in the U.S. The biodiesel industry experienced significant growth in 2013, but just as important was the diversity in feedstock utilized to produce biodiesel. Biodiesel producers are utilizing a wide-ranging mix of feedstocks, such as recycled cooking oil, agricultural oils such as soybean and canola oil, animal fats, and other byproducts such as distillers corn oil.
Although soybean oil remains the most used feedstock with more than 50 percent market share, the use of distillers corn oil increased 50 percent in 2013 for the months of January to July compared to the prior year according to the U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration.
Domestic supplies of animal fats and used cooking oil have also increased. As reported by ABF Economics, the U.S. has historically exported about a third of animal fats and waste grease and oils production. However since the growth in the biodiesel industry over the past five years the share of exports has declined to about 22 percent of production. This trend is expected to continue leaving more pounds in the U.S. that will be used to produce value added products such as biodiesel. The use of animal fats and yellow grease has increased approximately 20 percent in 2013, January to July, compared to the same time period in 2012.
In February, the U.S. EPA approved camelina as a feedstock pathway under the RFS opening the door for producers in the Pacific Northwest and other regions to consider camelina as a new rotation crop. Other crops and technologies, such as cottonseed oil and pennycress, continue to be evaluated for approval under the RFS.
For 2013, EPA determined sufficient sources of advanced biofuels such as biodiesel were available to expand the biomass-based diesel fuel volume obligation to 1.28 billion gallons. Current RFS approved raw material sources are vital to achieve this level and, looking forward, industry will also look to access new raw material sources to reach even higher production levels. The National Biodiesel Board continues to operate with the philosophy that private firms are best positioned to deliver technology to the marketplace. Therefore, NBB’s focus on these near term feedstock sources is centered on leveraging existing relationships with feedstock organizations and assisting groups with their research and commercialization programs.
NBB is investing significant time in the development of partnerships with academic and non-profit research consortiums to reach common goals of increased feedstock supplies. This is accomplished through support of research proposals and serving on external and/or industry advisory boards for research programs. In 2013, NBB also assisted University consortiums with research program development and remains a strong advocate in Washington, DC for increased investment in feedstock research.