biofuelsQ: What feedstocks does Piedmont use?

A: That’s a long answer, which you can find here.

Q: What does Piedmont Biofuels do?
A: We make, market, and sell biodiesel out of our location in Pittsboro, NC; We consult on setting up biodiesel businesses (plants and stations); We provide fuel maker and lab tech training;  We teach classes and workshops on biodiesel and straight vegetable oil.  We lobby the NC legislature, as well as our national representatives on behalf of biodiesel and renewable energy; We have an Internship Program that allows people to live on site and learn about all facets of our operations.  We sell equipment for biodiesel production and oil seed pressing.

Q: What do I have to do to convert my engine to use biodiesel?
A: Nothing. Simply fill your diesel fuel tank with biodiesel and drive away. If you plan on switching over to pure biodiesel it is important to understand its solvency properties.

Q: Where can I get a diesel vehicle?
A: Volkswagon and Mercedes have been selling passenger diesels in the US for years, more recently BMW and Audi have brought their diesels to the US. For used vehicles you can peruse Craigslist and eBay. We have compiled some resources to help you find the diesel mechanic of your dreams.

Q: I want to come visit you. Where are you located?
A: Visit our Directions page for directions and a map.

Q: How much does biodiesel cost?
A: The price of biodiesel changes along with the cost of the raw materials used to produce it. See our Price of Biodiesel page for current pricing.

Q: Why is its so expensive?
A: It’s cheap. Petroleum fuel is heavily subsidized in the United States. If it paid its fair share for healthcare and security it would be two to five times more expensive. People on petroleum diesel pay its true price on April 15th rather than at the pump. References: 1, 2, 3, and 4. Check out Understanding the Price of Biodiesel for an in depth look at our costs.

Q: Are there tax credits available for biodiesel?
A. Yes. A tax credit is available to petroleum suppliers who blend biodiesel into their petroleum products. It amounts to $1.00/gal off the company’s excise tax liability.

Q: Is Biodiesel classified as a hazardous material?
A: No.

Q: Does biodiesel burn cleaner?
A: Yes. It contains no sulfur, far less dangerous particulates, and is nearly carbon neutral. Burning it does create NOx (see next question).

Q: How much NOx?
A: Studies vary. Some laboratory research indicates slight increases in NOx by running biodiesel. Others find NOx neutral. Some claim that in “real-world driving conditions,” NOx is decreased. Read more about our take on the NOx issue.

Q: Will I get the same power and fuel economy running biodiesel?
A: Yes. Biodiesel contains 5% fewer BTUs per gallon than petroleum diesel, which is unnoticeable in onroad use.

Q: Is cold weather a problem in high percentage blends?
A: Yes. The B99.9 in our tanks will begin to gel around freezing (between 32-36? F) and will clog fuel filters between 22-28? F. Gelled fuel melts when warmed. Fuel rarely gels while the engine running and circulating fuel through the system. Cold morning startups are generally the only time that gelling becomes an issue. To ensure cold weather operability we recommend taking precautions whenever temperatures are near freezing.

There are three important actions you can take to continue using biodiesel in temperatures below freezing: add heat, add petroleum, or add a winterizing additive. The easiest cold weather solutions for central NC seems to be a B80 blend (80% biodiesel/20% petro-diesel) or, if you’d rather not add petro, you could use a cold flow additive.

Q: Can I run B100 in my TDI or newer vehicle?
A: Yes. Learn more about special considerations for vehicles with high pressure fuel injection systems.

Q. Can we help you start a coop in your hometown?
A. Yes. We have assisted a number of groups in getting their biodiesel coops and businesses started.  See our consulting page for more information.

Q: Can I sell my homemade fuel?
A: No. Not unless it meets ASTM D6751 and you belong to the National Biodiesel Board.

Q: Why do I have to belong to the National Biodiesel Board?
A: They have a monopoly on the Literature Review and Human Health Effects Data that is required by the EPA to register your fuel. Access to the data, to stay legal with the EPA, comes from having an NBB membership.

Q. Where do I get a bus to drive across the country to spread love and biodiesel and democracy and stuff?
A. We don’t know.

Q. Does using biodiesel void my warranty?
A. No. Read your actual warranty (not the propaganda the manufacturer or local dealer puts out). Engine manufacturers do not warranty the use of urine as a fuel in their engines any more than they do petro-diesel or biodiesel. The point here is that if you put bad petro-diesel in your vehicle and it blows the engine up no manufacturer’s warranty will cover the repair. Manufacturer’s warranties cover parts and workmanship regardless of the type of fuel you choose to use. This is why using only high quality fuel that conforms to ASTM International quality standards (D975 for petro-diesel and D6751 for biodiesel) is important. The Magnusson-Moss Act (Title 15, Chapter 50 of the US Code) is the letter of the law.

Q. How long can biodiesel be stored.
A. Depends how you are storing it. Keep it dark. Keep it at constant temperature. Keep the water out of it. Typical shelf life of properly stored biodiesel is 6 months.

Q. If biodiesel were spilled, would it damage the environment?
A. Possibly. Anything in concentration can damage the environment. It is non-toxic and biodiegradable. Don’t spill it. Keep it stored properly, and handle it properly, and keep it out of “the environment.”

Q. Does it combust like gasoline?
A. No. According to the Fire Prevention Code (Chapter 34, Section 3402) it is a Class IIIB combustible liquid, not a flammable. We have not seen a match powerful enough to light it (and we’ve tried a lot of matches).

Q. Does it combust like natural gas or propane?
A. No. Visit your local grassroots hydrogen coop for more information on how these things combust.

Q. Can I run my car on vegetable oil?
A. Yes, but you’ll need to convert your engine.  We don’t do these conversions, but some internet searching should find a company who can help with this.

Q. Where can I learn more about biodiesel?
A. Take the biofuels class over at Central Carolina Community College.

Other excellent FAQs can be found at:

Yokayo Biofuels
Ecology Center
National Biodiesel Board
Maui Green Energy

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