CLEANTECH: Biofuel Trial at Oakland

By Published On: October 12, 2007

A pure–not a fossil mix–of biofuels may be able to fuel some peaker plants. The first of three tests using a blend of vegetable oil-based fuel in Dynegy’s Oakland, California, power plant this week may pave the way for use in other facilities. “It’s in a test phase,” said Dynegy spokesperson David Hicks. The chief executive officer of the company that provided the fuel, H2Diesel, said that instead of a 20 percent blend of traditional diesel fuel and biofuel used for “biofuels” in diesel engines, what was used to power the jet engine-like turbine at the Oakland electric peaker power plant site was completely plant-based–or recycled plant-based oil. “We are feedstock agnostic,” said David Gillespie H2Diesel’s CEO. “It could be McDonald’s [deep fry waste] or virgin oil.” The problem with blended fossil/biofuels base is the methyl esters, said Gillespie. “They are solvents, and when there’s more than 20 percent in the mix their characteristics attack the rubber parts like gaskets and o-rings. Another characteristic of blended biofuels is that it tends to cloud up at temperatures below 20 degrees,” he added, making them inefficient or unusable. H2Diesel uses a process that doesn’t chemically alter the oil, according to Gillespie. Instead, it makes it potentially useful through additives and a blending process.

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