Aberdeen business looks to pump up ag economy by adding biodiesel

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Farm Forum

Offering a clean-burning, alternative fuel isn’t just about selling another product, it’s also about supporting the local ag community.

That’s the take of Kevin Fiedler, president of Ken’s SuperFair Foods & Shell Express. He is excited that customers pulling up to the pumps in front of the grocery store now have additional fuel options. Starting April 1, pumps began offering several blends of biodiesel fuel.

“We had some local soybean producers over the years indicate they would love to see an outlet in the downtown area where biodiesel fuels could be purchased,” Fiedler said. “So we began our research and teamed up with Harms Oil to take advantage of an incentive the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council was offering to improve biodiesel infrastructure.”

In a study done by the South Dakota soybean groups, 89 percent of consumers said they would use biodiesel were it available. That helped Fielder move to put in new blender pumps and equipment, including an 8,500-gallon biodiesel tank, which was installed in late 2015. Those renovations cost around $250,000, he said.

Biodiesel is also offered at the Ken’s locations in Groton and Ipswich.

Darrin Erdmann of Groton said he recently filled his tank when he stopped in Groton. He was pleased to see a sign at the pump noting the biodiesel blend.

“I think it’s a great thing to add the blender pumps,” Erdmann said. “On our farm, we’ve used it forever. My dad got some from Huffton Gap, and we blended our own at the farm. From a producer standpoint, I think it’s important that we’re using soybeans. Every bushel that is used is better for us. Consuming soybeans, in whatever form, is what is important.”

Growing and using soybeans is important to the bottom line, especially in this part of the state. Brown County is the No. 1 producer of soybeans in South Dakota, with growers harvesting 318,992 acres of soybeans in 2012, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

“It’s a little early to tell (how popular the biodiesel will be) based on 30 days of sales, but we have had some local producers who have commented that it’s nice to see our ag industry working hand in hand with our supermarkets-retail operations,” Fiedler said. He said they plan to launch the product on May 15 for a full week of savings as well as many giveaways. There will also be another launch in mid-June as well as mid-July in all locations.

Biodiesel blends are a great option when the consumer is looking for a detergent to keep fuel injectors and fuel systems clean, Fielder said. Education will help those new to using biodiesel take into account that the fuel sometimes loosens built-up residue in tanks, so fuel filters should be checked more often than normal.

“I think anytime you can use can use something locally, it’s a good deal,” said Joe Locken of Bath. “I didn’t know it had been added until I was asked about it. There has been a lot of talk about making biodiesel more available, and it should do well. There are a lot of trucks hauling grain through Aberdeen, so it really is a good deal.”

Brookings-based Harms Oil is the current supplier of biodiesel at Ken’s. Fiedler said that Jeff Harms, Harms Oil vice president, was very involved helping Ken’s plan the upgrades to offer the fuel.

Many of the locations in South Dakota offering biodiesel are along the interstates. That makes sense, as many trucks use it. Now, there’s an Aberdeen outlet.

Some consider biodiesel a premium fuel because of the added lubrication for the fuel pump and an ability to act as a solvent as well as other benefits, said Todd Hanten, a board member with the South Dakota Soybean Council and Research and Promotion Council. Many think that offsets the slightly higher cost, he said.

“We are so happy to have Ken’s adding this biofuel,” Hanten said. “The processing adds 63 cents per bushel in value to the bottom line for soybean farmers. That’s a huge benefit for every producer.”

• According to the National Biodiesel Board, U.S. consumers used about 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2015. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, use of the cleaner-burning fuel also reduced America’s carbon emissions by at least 18.2 million metric tons.

• According to information from the South Dakota Soybean and Promotion Council, biodiesel is a clean-burning, alternative fuel made from domestic, renewable resources. It can be blended with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend that can be used in diesel engines. Today, about 55 percent of all biodiesel in the U.S. is made from soybean oil.

• The soybeans are processed mostly for meal, which makes up 80 percent of the end product, leaving around 20 percent oil. As more soybean oil is processed for biodiesel production, more soybean meal is available for animal feed, which lowers feed prices by as much as $48 a ton, according to the South Dakota Soybean Promotion and Research Council and the National Biodiesel Board. Other feedstocks used to make biodiesel include corn oil, canola, palm, animal tallow, yellow grease and other oilseed crops. The processing adds 63 cents per bushel in value to the bottom line for soybean farmers.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Jeff Harms’ job title. He is vice president at Harms Oil.