Archive for the 'Biodiesel' Category

Interesting article about NW Biodiesel Forum

May 8, 2007

The NW is the grassroots center of the industry.

Palm oil is controversial.

The article in the Seattle PI

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Dave Garten, CEO SeQuential Biofuels

May 8, 2007

Dave Garten, CEO of SeQuential Biofuels spoke at the Oregon Entrepreneur’s Network Pubtalk. Here are a few notes from his presentation.

SeQuential’s goal is to create a retail consumer brand. In 50 years, the industry hasn’t changed (e.g., Chevron and traditional oil companies are the main brands). There is an opportunity to create a new brand in this space. Other examples of new brands in old industries are Whole Foods and Starbucks.

Retail station opened in January and sales are up 70% since then. Customers travel further and pay more. Customer buy “because it makes them feel good.” “Sure there are lots of hippies, but we get rednecks too.” [Good laugh from crowd.]

Closing on a bridge round now. Working on a Series A round to build more stations.

There are fuels there for any car (e.g., Ethanol blends for gas engine cars).

Joint Venture for supply of biofuel. Capacity is one million gallons per year. Raw materials are mainly local.

Company was founded in 2002 and there are 30+ locations to buy fuel. Dave came in as CEO last year. The key success factor is talent. Need professional management, biofuels expertise and retail expertise.

Cooperation from the state and local governments have been great. The “achilles heel” is permitting.

Would like to see government be a large customer and to help educate the public on the benefits of biofuels.

Primary competition is Shell and BP. There are some small niche players, but nothing on the scale of SeQuential.

When gas prices drop, percent of biofuel is decreased, and vice versa. Able to manage supply chain issues in this way.

Personally wants to buy a biodiesel-hybrid when made.

OEN meeting on sustainable start-ups

May 8, 2007

Amy Stork from’s Portland’s Office of Sustainability made the introductions and pointed out that they are becoming more focused on economic development.

Steve Senders, VP planning for Trellis Earth. Product, made from corn based bio-plastic, replaces take out containers (plates and utensils at event were made by them). Company has been in business for about six months and has raised $250K in seed funding.

The problem: obvious. Plastic lasts for hundreds/thousands of years in landfills. Restaurants and grocery stores are big opportunities. For example, San Francisco recently banned plastic bags. Portland is considering doing the same.

First set of products are “simple” (forks, plates). Products are manufactured in China. Other option is to import granules made in China to use in manufacture of other “plastic” based products.

Chris Ulum, CEO of Plas2Fuel based in Kelso, Washington. Takes “mixed-waste” used plastics and converts to petroleum. Founded in March 2004. April 2006 raised $300K in seed and more recently raised $600K. Completed second revision of technology involving far more automation. Looking for another round of funding.

Approach is based on locating processing technology close to source of plastic rather than re-shipping the plastic. The plastic that is used is low value non-recyclable plastic (22% of landfill space is taken up with this type of plastic).

Output can be refined into fuel.

Difference between Biodiesel and Ethanol

May 8, 2007

I’m just trying to learn the basics here. 

 Ethanol is alcohol based and can be produced from a wide variety of plants, most famously corn.  When added to gasolene, octane levels are increased and the fuel burns more completely (which is good for the environment).  All gas burning cars can use.

Biodiesel, in contrast, is a fuel derived from a wide variety of oils (e.g., vegetable oil, animal fat).  You need a diesel engine to use.

That’s my high level/simple definition for now.  More info at wide variety of sites such as TreeHugger.com.

More on biodiesel

May 8, 2007

Interesting article in the Portland Business Journal (May 4) about how oil dealers see biodiesel as a way to slow down market share declines.

The market for heating oil has been declining locally as more households use natural gas.  In 1995 400K HHs used natural gas.  In 2005, the number of HHs rose to 600K.  In 1990, 125K HHs used oil heat.  The number dropped to 100K by 2000.

 Oil dealers now see an opportunity to play the sustainability card because any home heating system that burns oil can use B20 (which means 20% biofuels).  Prices are comparable (B20 is slightly more expensive). 

 In addition to the green angle, biodiesels typically use local materials. 

NW Natural Gas responds that natural gas has a “lighter carbon footprint” than any fossil fuel, including biodiesel. 

SeQuential Biofuels

May 4, 2007

I love what these guys are doing.   They launched what they claim to be the nation’s first biofuels station in Eugene and now claim a network of 35+ branded biodiesel retail and cardlock sites (I’m assuming that the cardlock sites are self service). 

 They produce via a partnership with Pacific Biodiesel and claim initial capacity of 1 million gallons per year.  Production expansion is planned. 

Aside from production and retail, they need to partner on the distribution side (moving from production to retail outlets).  They work with several petroleum distributors to handle this. 

 Make it, move it, sell it.

Seems like a great opportunity to build a strong brand (even community) around a product that people are passionate about. 

 I would like to know about competition locally and nationally.

I would like to know more about the economics of the business (margins, break even, etc.)

I would like to know what/where the bottlenecks are (production, distribution, retail).  Are they selling out of product?  Are raw materials difficult to come by?

What is the current and projected market size for biofuels? 

How will SeQuential differentiate its brand (more than the “unique service offering” statement)

I like this one!  May have to go get myself a diesel VW.