Far-Reaching Impacts of Biointermediate Feedstocks on the Biodiesel Industry
by Karyn Jones (EcoEngineers/Biodiesel Magazine) The U.S. EPA’s proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support rule, published in the federal register Nov. 16, proposes a wide-range of regulatory and compliance changes that affect the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and the entire range of renewable fuel types. Most notably, EPA has proposed additional registration and compliance regulations around “biointermediate” feedstocks that will have far-reaching impacts on feedstock suppliers and the biodiesel industry as a whole.
What Is a Biointermediate Feedstock?
REGS states that a biointermediate feedstock is an approved feedstock (such as soybean oil, canola oil, waste oils/fats/grease, etc.) that is processed in such a way that it is “substantially altered” at a different location than the biofuel plant where it is ultimately processed into renewable fuel. EPA provides an example where cellulosic biomass (such as woody material) is converted into pyrolysis oil at one facility and then transferred to the biofuel facility for final processing into a renewable fuel.
What Isn’t in the Definition?
While REGS states that a mere “form change” to renewable biomass is not considered to be a “substantial alteration” and does not create a biointermediate, the list of approved types of form changes is limited and does not encompass all feedstock industry processing activities. Approved processing methods listed in the REGS rule include chopping, pressing, grinding, filtering, degumming, drying and adding water. Omissions to this list include heating, solvent extraction, bleaching and deodorizing.
Potential Impact on Feedstock Suppliers, Biodiesel Producers
The final definition of biointermediate feedstock will have a significant impact on the feedstock supplier and biodiesel production industry. Soybean and canola oils undergo refining with chemicals to create a refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) oil prior to entering a biodiesel plant. Used cooking oil (UCO) and tallow suppliers often heat the feedstock in order to remove impurities to produce a refined used cooking oil or choice white grease for sale to a biodiesel plant. Since EPA omitted discussion of these types of processing activities in the REGS rule, it is unclear whether these feedstocks classify as a biointermediate. This distinction is important to biodiesel producers since processing biointermediate feedstocks is prohibited under current regulation and could result in invalid RINs.
More clarity is needed in this regulation in order for the biodiesel industry to feel secure about its regulatory compliance. While it is unlikely that EPA’s intent is to regulate the entire biodiesel feedstock industry through REGS, the omission of key types of established industry processing from the proposed rulemaking is concerning. EPA is seeking industry comment on this proposal through Feb. 16. The biodiesel industry should support current feedstock processing practices through their comments to this proposal. You can submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– OAR–2016–0041, at http://www.regulations.gov. READ MORE