Small Argentine biodiesel producer addresses market concerns

By Ron Kotrba | August 22, 2012

As a small biodiesel producer from Argentina, Georges Breitschmitt, founder of Recup-Oil, spoke via Skype to an audience at the Collective Biofuels Conference Aug. 19 in Temecula, Calif., about the ongoing developments in the Argentine market and his experience with small-scale production in one of the world’s largest biodiesel-producing nations.

After Spain closed all imports of biodiesel from Argentina to bolster its own idled domestic industry—until months ago Spain was a major outlet for Argentine biodiesel—Argentina raised its blend mandate from 7 to 10 percent. Just recently the Argentine government increased the biodiesel export tax from 20 percent to 32 percent, a move that has the nation’s biodiesel plants “very upset,” Breitschmitt said. On the morning of his presentation, it was reported that Argentina filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization about the protectionist Spanish trade barriers.

As a result of high soybean prices, increased export taxes and Spanish ports closed to Argentine biodiesel, Breitschmitt said some—not many, but some—smaller producers are starting to collect waste vegetable oil. This is where companies like Recup-Oil, Breitschmitt’s outfit, come in.

Breitschmitt said the main drivers for his involvement in waste oil collection and biodiesel production, which began about a year ago, are ecology and energy. Certain times of the year, particularly during planting and harvesting, there is a lack of diesel fuel available, he said, and some farmers cannot even find enough fuel to run their tractors, combines, trucks and other farming equipment.

Recup-Oil has been approaching schools, saying, “We can produce energy from your French fry oils.” Breitschmitt’s oil collection truck runs on B60, and he uses drums and 25-liter containers to collect the oil, then filters it and stores the filtered oil in a 1,000-liter tank. All of his processing equipment is homemade, he said, and he uses Amberlite ion exchange resin to purify his biodiesel.

Breitschmitt said he chose to make his own equipment rather than buy prepackaged small-scale systems, such as BioPro, because even though such systems may cost around $25,000 in the U.S., they run about $60,000 in Argentina. He also said he is using electrolysis, even though there were some questions in the audience as to why. It was said that electrolysis would help drop the glycerin straight out.

One issue Breitschmitt said he is dealing with is the lack of affordable fuel quality testing available in Argentina. “To do tests on our biodiesel it is too expensive,” he said. “It costs $5,000 to $6,000.” Jeff Fetkenhour of Gorge Analytical, who also spoke at the conference on ASTM standards, was in the audience and asked Breitschmitt to call him because Fetkenhour would help provide more affordable fuel testing. 


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