New Leaf Biofuel to supply biodiesel to San Diego school buses

By Bryan Sims | December 29, 2011

San Diego-based biodiesel producer New Leaf Biofuel LLC has forged an agreement with the San Diego Unified School District to supply biodiesel to its fleet of more than 500 buses through the city’s intergovernmental fuel contract by the end of the 2014-‘15 school year. The San Diego Unified School District Trustees voted in favor of the plan in December to use B20 in its entire school bus fleet.

According to Jennifer Case, CEO of New Leaf Biofuel, the biodiesel supply contract was a culmination of more than a year-long dialogue with school district officials that involved hosting tours at New Leaf’s production plant, as well as initiating several meetings for ongoing education about the benefits of using biodiesel in school bus fleets.

“They were very excited about the prospect right from the get-go,” Case told Biodiesel Magazine. Case, a former environmental attorney turned biodiesel CEO, bootstrapped the company with her partners to form New Leaf back in March 2006. Case has been a pioneer in helping local fleets transition to using biodiesel, as well as helping the California biodiesel industry raise the bar on fuel quality. “It was just more of the process of getting [the biodiesel supply contract] on the board of education docket and to actually vote on it,” she added.

New Leaf isn’t an unfamiliar local business entity to the school district. The company already provides biodiesel to businesses in San Diego, as well as surrounding cities such as Chula Vista and Oceanside, including local universities, the U.S. Navy and Allied Waste, a local waste management firm.

“They’ve known pretty much since we started talking that we’re very involved with the community,” Case said. “The city of San Diego has been using our fuel and it’s the same kind of fuel contract that the [school district] is under so they’ve known about us for a long time. It’s a perfect fit.”

The San Diego Unified School District has already taken an interim step toward reducing the emission profile in its school bus fleet. In 2009, the district finished modifications to its fleet to create clean diesel buses, installing equipment that reduced particulate matter. Federal stimulus funds and assistance from the U.S. EPA, California EPA and the local Air Pollution Control District made the conversion possible. Students from district automotive technology programs also helped with the conversion processes.

“As this equipment ages, we have to look at alternatives,” said Kevin Beiser, board of education member. “This resolution gives the superintendant clear direction that this board is dedicated to reducing pollution.”

New Leaf produces approximately 2 MMgy of biodiesel from recycled cooking oil, much of which is sourced from more than 1,500 local restaurants. According to Case, the company experienced a growth year in 2011 with the hiring of 10 employees, bringing its workforce to 25 employees. Plans are underway to double annual production capacity to 4 MMgy, which is expected to open six more jobs. The expansion is expected to be complete by June next year. New Leaf is also working on becoming BQ-9000 certified, which Case expects to be complete by fall 2012.

“We continue to grow,” Case said. “We just hope the biodiesel industry continues to support the growth.”


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