For an industry struggling to survive, biodiesel came along at the perfect time.
“Bioheat resurrected itself on the backbone of biodiesel,” Paul Nazzaro, President of Nazzaro Group and a National Biodiesel Board petroleum liaison, told attendees at the inaugural Bioheat forum Wednesday at the Courtyard Marriott in Mankato, Minn.
Nazarro joined nine other East Coast heating oil and fuel experts as well as Minnesota biodiesel experts to discuss biodiesel’s role in Bioheat, the potential of the East Coast marketplace and Minnesota’s role in meeting consumption.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to reinvent the industry with a fuel you have in abundance,” Nazzaro said.
The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council invested soybean checkoff dollars to bring in the East Coast delegation to discuss how Minnesota can help fuel a heating market with six million homes dependent on heating oil.
John Huber, President of the National Oil Heat Research Alliance, said heating oil companies compete with monopolies and utilities such as natural gas and electricity. Huber said the ultra low sulfur dioxide fuel standard for diesel, along with the use of biodiesel, makes Bioheat an environmentally friendly heating oil.
“We aren’t really producing particulates, which is a really good thing,” Huber said. “We look very comparable to natural gas blending with just a little bit of biodiesel.”
Several stated in the northeast have heating oil biodiesel mandates. Until recently, Bioheat was a mix of heating oil with up to 5 percent biodiesel (B5). New ASTM standards allow for blends of 6 to 20 percent biodiesel.
“In Minnesota, we have a B10 mandate in the summertime and B5 in winter,” said Bill Zurn, former MSR&PC and current Minnesota soybean Growers Association director. “We have an excess when they need the biodiesel.”
Zurn chaired the New Uses action team and played a big role in bringing the heating oil experts to Minnesota.
“I had traveled to New York several times to learn about Bioheat, he said. “It just made sense after meeting these people who needed our product that we would invite them out to Minnesota to learn more about how we produce a sustainable, renewable crop.”
Tuesday, the delegation met with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Minnesota Department of Ag commissioner Dave Frederickson for a press conference at the MDA building in St. Paul.
“If you think about it, what if we said we had a product that could jump start our economy, here especially in rural Minnesota, reduce our dependence on foreign energy, and help alleviate climate change. We’ve got a product that is a transportation fuel that burns cleaner than petroleum based products and it is affordable and it can contribute to 18 thousand jobs in Minnesota and I think about $2.3 billion in our states economy. That’s what we have with biodiesel.”
Smith touted the positive impact biodiesel has made on the air quality as well, sharing the American Lung Association of Minnesota statics that current blends of biodiesel in Minnesota is equal to removing 128,000 vehicles off Minnesota’s roads each year.
“I am really proud, first of all, to be here in support of those values of clean, affordable, renewable Minnesota homegrown energy and how we are executing on that standard with our B10 mandate here in Minnesota,” Smith said.
On Wednesday, the delegation toured Renewable Energy Group’s Albert lea biodiesel plant and on Thursday, wrapped the experience with a farm tour at MSGA director Brad Hovel’s family farm operation near Cannon Falls, Minn.
Michael Ferrante of the Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association said his time in Minnesota was rewarding.
“The trip was an incredible experience,” he said. “I feel confident in saying that our entire team learned a great deal from our partners, funders and friends with the Minnesota Soybean Board. And the visit really helped cement long-term relationships and goals.”
Joining Nazzaro, Huber, Ferrante from the East Coast were Michael Trunzo, president of Northeast Public Affairs and former president and CEO of the New England Fuel Institute, Ray Hart of Hart Home Comfort, Eric DeGesero of New Jersey Fuel Merchants, John Maniscalco from the New York Oilheat Association, Al Breda, Service Manager at Sippin Energy Products and national president of Oil & Energy Service Professionals and Judy Garber, Oil and Energy Service Professionals.