By Tony Caputo, Director of Business Development, Warren Rogers, August 2020
A recent article from the Wall Street Journal stated that “the coronavirus pandemic has crushed demand for fuels such as gasoline and jet fuel, and many expect global oil consumption to remain depressed for years. But the appetite for so-called renewable fuel is poised to grow because of government regulations in places, such as California, that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Greener Fuel U.S. renewable diesel consumption is poised to continue climbing as environmental rules tighten.” 1
Bob Herman, Phillips 66’s refining chief, spoke of the refinery conversions taking place to increase profitability, “The economic conditions are ripe for it,” He further added that “the company’s San Francisco-area facility isn’t making money as a traditional refinery.”1
In the same article, Turner Mason, an analytics firm, estimated that, as California’s rules become stricter and other states consider adopting similar rules, U.S. renewable-diesel consumption is projected to roughly double over the next decade to around 1.1 billion gallons a year.1
Per the US Department of Energy, Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning renewable replacement for petroleum diesel fuel. It can be manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease. Agri-biodiesel comes solely from virgin oils (soybean, corn, sunflower seed, cotton seeds, canola, etc.) or animal fats. Renewable biodiesel is derived from biomass and is treated the same as biodiesel for tax purposes.2
As such, Biodiesel is quickly becoming a source of additional margin and profit for traditional travel center operators. This is also tempting conventional convenience store operators, such as Thornton’s, Speedway, and RaceTrac, into stepping into the travel center and bio-diesel blending business. But, with biodiesel, comes many positives, higher profits………and more complexities.
EPA credits can be as high as $1.00 a gallon when the operator meets the qualifications for tax credit. In addition, the EPA may offset part of the cost of adding a biodiesel tank or blending device to retail or in-house fueling locations. There is a myriad of ways to capture these tax credits for the savvy blending operator or producer of Biofuels.
However, Biodiesel blending can be messy and challenging to manage! Travel Center operators typically blend Biodiesel with conventional Diesel at each fueling facility. Biodiesel blending may consist of a transfer of Biodiesel into conventional diesel tanks during a delivery. Alternatively, Biodiesel can be injected into a trunk line while fuel dispensing is in progress. Regardless of the method, Warren Rogers monitors these blending operations accurately to ensure proper blend ratios are upheld and to maintain an audit of transfers for Biodiesel tax credit and state fuel tax purposes.
As a rule, Biodiesel can be blended in 4 ways:
- In-line blending underground
- In-line blending aboveground
- Fill-blending underground
- Fill-blending aboveground
The more common blending technique today is at the terminal, where the bio-diesel is “splash-blended” with conventional diesel as it is loaded into the fuel tanker compartment. Or, Biodiesel is loaded on top of the diesel fuel, rendering a new mixture as the truck travels to the location and again, further stirred while being loaded into the tanks. More-advanced operators are investing in underground equipment, like Junge Systems, and blending on-site at the operator’s travel center locations.
In-Line and on-site blenders allow the operator to blend only when the economics are right, and at the ratio that works for their margin models. Operators assess the price difference between diesel and biodiesel and blend at percentages that give them the best return. However, that can be tricky and difficult to keep track of in order to ensure that blending is occurring at the right ratios. To receive tax or energy credits, prompt tracking of blending amounts, ratios, etc. is critical to support the tax or RINS credits for the operator.
How can Warren Rogers Help?
At Warren Rogers, we monitor all tanks, lines, sensors, and inventory levels continuously through our advanced diagnostics and connections to the tank gauge and fuel controller. Our on-site processor can see fuel transactions taking place at the dispensers and the offsetting impact on the dispenser totalizers and volumes in the tank. Using our advanced diagnostics, we can then calculate what percentage of blend is occurring for each transaction. We will then produce standard reports to help the retailer support their blending efforts for the federal or state paperwork requirements. We can also track the percentage of above-ground blending taking place by reviewing the operators’ deliveries, tracking the current blend in the tank, and calculating what the new blend rate is once the latest delivery occurs.
Since biodiesel has different characteristics than conventional grades, additional maintenance may be required to keep the bio and diesel systems running optimally. Our applications and online portal monitor every fuel position and tank submersible pump for flow rate and informs the operator when substandard flows are occurring. Once a problem is detected or reaches a certain threshold, targeted and cost-effective maintenance can occur.
About Warren Rogers
Founded in 1979 by Dr. Warren Rogers, Warren Rogers Associates pioneered the development of Statistical Inventory Reconciliation Analysis (SIRA) as a means of monitoring underground fuel tanks and associated lines. Warren Rogers later invented Continual Reconciliation Analysis for fuel management and has been at the forefront of developments and enhancements to this technology.
Today, Warren Rogers specializes in statistical analysis and precision fuel system diagnostics for the retail petroleum industry. The Warren Rogers system is fully deployed in the cloud to provide customers with real-time access to fueling data anytime and anyplace. Recent initiatives include alarm management capabilities and the deployment of a secure procurement application for delivery forecasting and product dispatch, the development of KPI Measures of the financial impact of tank system maintenance activities, and advanced delivery audit. In addition, all Warren Rogers solutions are PCI compliant and eliminate any reliance upon the use of a customer’s VPN for access to store devices. Warren Rogers holds numerous U.S., European and Canadian patents for these applications. For more information, please visit www.warrenrogers.com and feel free to contact Tony Caputo, Director of Business Development, at email@example.com, (M) 540-314-6210, for more information and scheduling a demonstration.
1 The Wall Street Journal, 8/13/2020, U.S. Oil Refiners Accelerate Shift to Renewables in Downturn, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-refiners-embrace-greener-fuels-11597251600?st=4413j2gbc6ooc7s&reflink=article_email_share