State hosts soy biodiesel affair at marina

Soy biodiesel found its way to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard on May 9 as state officials and United Soybean Board (USB) representatives celebrated the clean-burning fuel’s introduction at the Indian River marina.
Coastal Point • SUBMITTED: Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and Agriculture Sec. Michael Scuse pump some soy biodiesel into John Carey's boat.Coastal Point • SUBMITTED:
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and Agriculture Sec. Michael Scuse pump some soy biodiesel into John Carey's boat.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary John Hughes recognized dozens for their role in recent transformations at the formerly dilapidated marina, tapping local legislators Rep. Gerald Hocker (38th District) and Sen. George Howard Bunting (20th District) before introducing Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

He characterized Minner as a supporter of agriculture, and soy biodiesel in particular, saying she’d been “early in, and a constant and steadfast friend,” to the energy initiative.

Minner echoed his thanks to the crowd, and expanded on the sustainable agriculture component of her Livable Delaware program.

“Making sure active farmers show a little profit is the best way to preserve farmland,” she said. Minner also noted her strong support for the soy processing plant near Clayton, Del. (Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel), citing the fuel mix’s clean water/clean air benefits.

As captain Mike Shearer later pointed out, boats running regular diesel usually came back to the dock dusted with soot — “You know if there’s soot going into the cockpit, there’s soot going into your lungs,” he said. “Believe me, you will see the difference,” Minner said.

She said she was proud of the state’s work at the marina, and cooperative efforts with captains of the boating industry to promote the clean-burning fuel — “but also, all the other products,” Minner noted.

“I can see they’re using a lot more soy-based materials and supplies (lubricants, cleaning products) that don’t pollute when they wash down the docks,” she said.

Several companies from around the country set out samples — cleaners and solvents from Franmar Chemical (Illinois) and Soy Technologies and 1st Envirosafety (both of Florida) and lubricant from SoyClean (Iowa). All these products will be available at the marina’s Ship Store.

Minner said these industries could help both soybean growers and environmentalists — and she also suggested increased use of soy biodiesel could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

True, the diesel mix currently available at the Indian River marina is only 2 percent soy (regular diesel is still available as well), but state and industry representatives suggested this was only the beginning.

DNREC’s Charles Salkin (director, parks and rec) said they’d introduced it at that level, but it would be notched up. According to Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel President Marty Ross, “It’ll take a little time, but we’ll get there.”

Meanwhile, Salkin said there wasn’t one piece of equipment at the state parks that wasn’t using B20 (20 percent soy) fuel.

Minner noted other agencies using the fuel — the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the Department of Ag, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) and the Sussex County Conservation District. A heating system at Meredith Middle School (Middletown, Del.) was recently converted to soy biodiesel as well, she said.

Delaware Soybean Board President Jeffrey Allen noted Conectiv, the Delaware Electric Cooperative and the Dover Air Force Base (ground-based vehicles) among other entities using soy biodiesel in their fleets.

He said all this couldn’t help but increase demand for soybeans, and thanked Minner for her support.

According to USB’s Tom Verry, if every farmer in the U.S. switched to B2 (two percent mix) that would put biodiesel producers in the market for another 40 million bushels of soybeans, more or less.

He said B20 was the most common mix — above that, the fuel ran up against a cost/benefit barrier, but B20 was very competitive.

In addition, he said it had a mild detergent effect on fuel tanks. “Especially if it’s a storage tank that hasn’t been cleaned in a while, if you implement B20, you probably will have to change your fuel filters once or twice,” Verry said.

He recognized engine performance was critical for angler far from shore, but said ambulances in Jefferson City, Mo. (his hometown) ran B20. “It’s just as critical for them, to be able to go when they have to go, and they won’t use anything but,” Verry said.

Diesel mechanic and Captain John Carey (Bullet II), said he hadn’t wanted to make his twin 1200 horsepower V12s the guinea pig for the soy biodiesel, but after he’d run some tests in the shop, he filled up and has been running with B2 ever since.

He said the fuel’s cleansing effect in the tanks would never be an issue for any responsible skipper, who was sure to have an extra filter or two onboard.

Anyway, Carey said there wouldn’t be anything to flush unless the fuel tank had developed “allergy,” or microbial growth (caused by moisture in the tank).

This allergy would cause the fuel filter to clog eventually, at any rate, Carey said — it would just happen sooner for someone using soy biodiesel.

Or, it might not — “Make sure you have some spare filters, and check it now and then,” he recommended. “If it’s still clean, put it back in.”

According to Carey, this cleansing quality had come as somewhat of a surprise. He wasn’t clear on how the soy biodiesel managed to kill microbial growth in fuel tanks, but he stood by its effectiveness. “Once you start using it, you’ll never have that allergy again,” he said.