Frequently Asked Questions

What are biofuels?

Biofuels are an alternative source of reliable energy made from animal fats. Produced from the animal fats we collect from animal processors and supermarkets, and used fats, oils and grease (FOG), our biofuels can provide a clean-burning, economical alternative to natural gas, and No. 6 and No. 2 residual fuel oils that are currently used in industrial boilers.

What are some of the advantages of burning biofuels?

  • Biofuel is a clean- burning fuel that results in a significant net emissions decrease with lower SO2 and NOX emissions than heavy oils.
  • Biofuels burn cleaner in several areas than No. 2 residual fuel oil with little or no sulfur emissions.
  • Most state agencies and the EPA are in favor of biofuel use as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels.
  • Biofuels may offer significant cost advantages over natural gas, and No. 2 and No. 6 oils.
  • Using alternative fuels give leverage over other fuel companies and provide an opportunity for further price negotiations with the fuel supply companies.
  • Valley Proteins has many facilities strategically located throughout the mid-Atlantic, eastern and southwestern regions of the United States that provide a freight advantage for the delivery of biofuels.

What may be some of the disadvantages of burning biofuels?

  • Sustained use of biofuel requires a modification to your air permit.
  • A pre-heater and heated boiler tank similar to those used to burn heavy oil is required to burn biofuel. If these are not currently in place, a boiler will need to be converted to accommodate biofuel use.
  • BTUs per gallon are slightly lower for biofuel (130,000 vs. 150,000 for high-sulfur No. 6 oil). Therefore, it is important to use on a cost/BTU comparison to see if burning biofuel is right for you.
  • At times, commodity-based prices may be lower for traditional fuels, making the conversion to biofuel cost-prohibitive.

What types of boilers are best for burning biofuels?

Biofuel is recommended for use in industrial boilers. As with No. 6 residual fuel oil, a pre-heater and heated boiler tank is needed to burn biofuel. If your boilers are currently burning natural gas or No. 2 oil, and do not have pre-heater or heated boiler tank, the system will need to be converted to accommodate the burning of biofuel.

What is the procedure for converting my boiler from burning No. 6 residual fuel oil to burning biofuel?

Set-up for boilers currently burning No. 6 residual fuel oil:

  • Install a 2” duplex filter with 60-mesh stainless steel baskets in the oil supply line between the fuel storage tank and boiler. The existing oil filter on the boiler may be removed, but the better practice is to keep it in use.
  • An insulated and heated tank is required, preferably 10,000 gallons, with a float level indicator installed. An existing No. 6 oil storage tank can be used to store biofuel. Before filling the tank with biofuel, the tank should be cleaned to remove accumulated solids and sludge from the residual fuel oil.
  • The No. 6 oil in the tank should be drawn down as far as possible before accepting delivery of biofuel in the tank. Changeover can then occur without boiler shutdown.
  • A boiler technician should tune the boiler at the time of changeover to firing on biofuel.
  • The biofuel storage tank should be kept heated to 180° Fahrenheit at all times
  • The procedure to ignite a boiler with biofuel is the same as lighting a boiler with No. 6 oil, except that biofuel will ignite at 180° F as compared to 210° F for No. 6 oil.

What is the procedure for converting from natural gas and/or No. 2 residual oil to boiler fuel?

Set-up for boilers currently burning natural gas and/or No. 2 residual fuel oil:

  • To burn biofuel, the boiler needs to be set-up as if to burn No. 6 residual fuel oil. Check with your boiler service technician to determine if the boiler can be set-up and have a complete No. 6 oil train installed on the boiler. This generally includes an oil heater, air pump and atomizer, oil return line, filter, metering valves, nozzle and related components. In some cases, a new burner set-up to burn No. 6 oil and gas may be needed — this can be determined by your boiler service technician.
  • Install a 2” duplex filter with 60-mesh stainless steel baskets in the oil supply line between the fuel storage tank and boiler.
  • An insulated and heated tank is required, preferably 10,000 gallons, with a float level indicator installed. An existing No. 2 oil storage tank can be used to store biofuel, as long as the tank is insulated and a heating coil is provided.
  • A boiler technician should tune the boiler at the time of changeover to firing on biofuel.
  • The biofuel storage tank should be kept heated to 180° Fahrenheit at all times
  • The procedure to ignite a boiler with biofuel is the same as lighting a boiler with No. 6 oil, except that biofuel will ignite at 180° F as compared to 210° F for No. 6 oil.

What are the set-up costs for conversion to biofuels?

The following are estimated costs for conversion to biofuel:

From existing No. 6 oil set-up:
Minimal costs; duplex filter set-up = $500

From existing natural gas or No. 2 oil set-up:

    • With a heated tank on-site: $20,000 – $40,000 *
      What’s included…
      – new lines
      – pumps
      – heaters
      – oiler controller
      – burner filters
      – labor

 

  • With no heated tank on-site: $45,000 – $70,000 *
    What’s included…
    – all of the above
    – heated tank ($25,000 – $30,000*)

Please note: A used tank may be an option.

* Costs based on 2009 prices.

What are the boiler service requirements when using biofuel?

Burning biofuel is similar to burning No. 6 residual fuel oil. The following additional service considerations are required when burning biofuel:

Filters
Check the filters in the fuel line to the boiler at least two times per shift and clean as required. The duplex filter system, as recommended, allows the boiler to continue to operate using the second filter while the other is cleaned, avoiding the need for boiler shutdown. Experience may indicate a less frequent cleaning schedule.

Nozzle
Clean and inspect the burner nozzle daily for blockage and wear. Keep at least two spare nozzles in-stock.

Interior Inspection and Cleaning
Open the back of the boiler at least every two weeks to inspect and clean: rear door, rear tube sheet, any blocked tubes, Morrison tube. Experience, over time, may indicate a different frequency of inspection and cleaning.

Pressure Monitoring
Regularly monitor oil pressure and air pressure gauges for proper operation, and make adjustments, as needed, to maintain at correct pressures, as indicated for burning No. 6 oil.

How does burning biofuels affect air permitting?

Air permitting for biofuel has become easier recently. As long as a facility is permitted for heavy fuel oil, very little is required. Valley Proteins has partnered with Trigon Engineering Consulting, Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina, on permitting. They should be able to easily assist you, as well. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources provides a streamlined approach specific to biofuel permitting, and similar approaches are taken in other states.

If the economics do not look favorable at the time of conversion, do not wait. Having an alternative fuel in your permit gives you another option should the balance change or petroleum supplies be interrupted. Additionally, having an alternative fuel source gives a reasonably-sized plant the ability to negotiate better pricing with fossil fuel suppliers.

Does Valley Proteins burn biofuels in your plants?

Yes. All of our plants have been utilizing biofuel as heating fuel for over 15 years, confirming that animal fat is a viable, and often economical, option for heating and emissions concerns. Used alone, or as an additive, our biofuel not only reduces sulfur emissions for a cleaner environment, but also helps decrease our company’s dependency on foreign oil and contributes to our local economies.