We started the first edition of this book by noting that it was an exciting time for everyone in the biodiesel industry. Little did we know how exciting it would become with the second edition! Interest in biodiesel is exploding. Biodiesel is selling as fast as producers can make it. In many cases, it is priced below petroleum-based diesel fuel. Investors and entrepreneurs are eager to get an early start in this growth opportunity.
We have been offering on-site training or virtual workshops on various aspects of biodiesel since 2002 with our team of experts, including Van Gerpen, Davis Clements, Rudy Pruszko, Brent Shanks, and Gerhard Knothe. We have had almost 400 total attendees with representatives from 42 states and 21 countries outside of the United States. Our goal has always been to provide comprehensive and unbiased information about biodiesel. The notes from these workshops were the origin of this book. This second edition incorporates revisions and updates to material from the first edition and includes three entirely new chapters. Feedback from our students has been invaluable in improving the material and making it more useful to readers.
Recent developments in the industry have re-emphasized the importance of fuel quality to the continued growth of biodiesel. We want to call the reader's attention to the chapters on biodiesel specifications, test methods, and engine requirements. Everyone should constantly repeat the mantra. If it doesn't meet the ASTM specification, it's not biodiesel. There is no greater threat to this industry than a public perception that the fuel cannot be trusted.
We wish everyone the best of luck in their ventures, however, we want to add a note of caution to temper the enthusiasm that currently surrounds biodiesel. New industries tend to go through periods of rapid growth followed by corrections, where those businesses that are well-managed survive and those that are uncompetitive fail. We don't expect that biodiesel will be any different.
It will not be long before the rapid expansion of the biodiesel industry produces a shortage of feedstock, causing price increases that will challenge the profitability of biodiesel production. Companies that have controlled costs, built efficient plants, stayed abreast of new developments, and captured a supply of feedstock will have the best chance for survival. We hope this book helps your project be one of the successful companies.
We wish everyone in the biodiesel industry the best of luck as they work toward finding their place in an industry that we expect will grow into a major economic force in the United States, as it has in Europe.
All of the authors whose writings are included in this publication have served as faculty at the widely recognized Biodiesel Workshop Series, held in cooperation with Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The five-day workshop takes place several times annually. Materials from those workshops, which cover technology, analytical methods, and business management for biodiesel producers, are included in this book.
Jon Van Gerpen is head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Idaho, Moscow. He was an initial developer and leader in establishing the Biodiesel Workshop Series. Van Gerpen previously was a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State. He has been conducting biodiesel-related research for 10 years, including investigations into biodiesel-fueled engine emissions, fuel composition effects, thermal and oxidative stability, and contaminant effects. While at Iowa State, he oversaw the operation of a biodiesel pilot plant at the Iowa Energy Center’s Biomass Energy Conversion Center and directed research at the Internal Combustion Engines Laboratory in the university’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Rudy Pruszko is a chemical engineer and project manager with the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS), which is part of Iowa State University Extension. He has more than 25 years of manufacturing and management experience in a broad range of industries. His experience includes design, construction, start-up, and operations of five chemical plants, including business planning, cost analysis, marketing research, and project development from concept to commercialization. Pruszko has assisted several biodiesel plant start-ups with feasibility studies and business planning.
Davis Clements is the founder and president of Renewable Products Development Laboratories, Inc. (RPDL), Lincoln, Nebraska, a process development and licensing company founded in 1999. He has been involved in chemical process design and process development activities in industry and academia, and as a consultant since 1966. The current focus of RPDL is processes and products based on the utilization of animal fats, vegetable oils and waste cooking grease as a source of energy and industrial chemicals.
Gerhard Knothe has a Ph.D. in organic polymer chemistry and has worked at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Peoria, Illinois, since 1989. In his tenure as a research chemist, he has been involved with developing industrial uses of vegetable oils. His contributions include research on pre-combustion reactions of fatty compounds as they occur in vegetable oils and biodiesel, combustion-improving additives, additives for improving cold-flow properties, and analytical methods for biodiesel production and fuel quality assessment.
Brent Shanks is an associate professor of chemical engineering at Iowa State University, Ames, joining the faculty in 1999. Prior to that, he worked for Shell Chemical Company, Houston, Texas, for 11 years as a research engineer in the area of heterogeneous catalysis and as department manager of the chemical catalyst department. Shanks’ work includes leading training courses for process engineers and operators in manufacturing facilities. A current project involves the synthesis of novel, highly basic heterogeneous catalysts for the transesterification of triglycerides to biodiesel.