- Bunge’s position in the value chain allows us to work with farmer-customers and end consumers to meet growing demand for renewable feedstocks, including through cover crop projects like CoverCress.
- Renewable diesel and biodiesel offer low-carbon solutions to meet demand for more sustainable fuel sources.
- Continuing to support the farmer-customer to incorporate renewable feedstocks that enable the growth of these low-carbon fuel markets will be a priority in the years ahead.
When it comes to making the most of renewable fuel prospects, Bunge is enthusiastically involved with opportunities to participate in the process from start to finish. Step by step, beginning with farmers growing feedstocks, to refiners making fuel, back to farmers powering their equipment, we work to sustainably meet renewable fuel needs now and for the future.
The first step is working with our farmer-customers to grow the best feedstocks for fuels. While petroleum pumps churn oil from underground, farmers grow needed oil feedstocks above ground. Those feedstocks today are primarily soybeans and canola, which can be crushed for the oil to be made into renewable diesel and biodiesel. Bunge is exploring other opportunities as well, in the form of higher oil soybean and canola varieties and other potential crop sources.
For example, we are looking at CoverCress as a way for farmers to get into crop production that supports the renewable fuels industry. CoverCress was developed from pennycress, a winter annual weed commonly found in crop fields. It has been bred to maintain the best of pennycress’ agronomic features, including its high oil content, winter hardiness and high yield potential.
But the real advantage is that CoverCress is a winter cover crop. It does not compete with corn or soybeans for acres and is a low-carbon-intensity feedstock that also sequesters carbon.
Once feedstocks are harvested, the next step involves crushing the oilseeds to obtain the oils that become the foundation for renewable diesel and biodiesel manufacturing. Bunge brings soybeans and canola into facilities where we process them and market the soybean or canola meal to livestock feeders and send the oil to food manufacturers and to petroleum refineries.
Petroleum refiners are considered our customers for the oil from these feedstocks. Several have revamped facilities to produce renewable diesel and biodiesel from soybeans and canola. And while renewable diesel and biodiesel are both produced from crop oils, they are different fuels.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, renewable diesel “is a hydrocarbon produced through various processes such as hydrotreating, gasification, pyrolysis and other biochemical and thermochemical technologies. It meets ASTM D975 specification for petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is a mono-alkyl ester produced via transesterification. Biodiesel meets ASTM D6751 specifications and is approved for blending with petroleum diesel.”
Currently, nearly all domestically produced and imported renewable diesel is used in California due to its economic benefits under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. According to the California Air Resources Board, the standard is designed to decrease the carbon intensity of the state’s transportation fuel pool while reducing petroleum diesel use and improving air quality. The Alternative Fuels Data Center reports five U.S. plants produce renewable diesel with a combined capacity of about 400 million gallons per year. Annual consumption may be closer to 900 million gallons. Renewable diesel can replace not only conventional diesel, but also gasoline.
Biodiesel production and use also are climbing. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) estimates 125 plants in the nation have the capacity to produce three billion gallons of biodiesel which can be blended up to 20 percent with diesel. NBB lists several environmental benefits as compared to petroleum-based diesel fuel. Biodiesel reduces lifecycle greenhouse gases by 86 percent, lowers particulate matter by 47 percent, reduces smog and makes our air healthier to breathe. In addition, biodiesel use reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 67 percent. And for every unit of fossil fuels it takes to produce biodiesel, 3.5 units of renewable energy are returned.
Renewable diesel and biodiesel also are being explored for use in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). When SAF is blended with conventional jet fuel, it can be used in existing aircraft and infrastructure. Bunge continues to monitor opportunities in this segment of the fuel market.
Once renewable fuel and biodiesel enter the commercial fuel stream, they are available for use by consumers, including by the very farmers who grew the feedstocks. We encourage farmers to incorporate biodiesel into their operations, as they can increase their farm income and support other economic benefits. In fact, one study commissioned by several state soybean checkoff boards found that biodiesel demand increases the price of soybeans by 74 cents per bushel.
U.S. farmers can anticipate the fuel market will continue to incentivize their sustainability. Farmers who use no-till and other conservation practices are increasingly going to be recognized for capturing carbon in the soil. Farmers may even be compensated for doing so. The Natural Resources Conservation Service finds some crops grown for biofuels production conserve, protect and enhance highly erodible lands and water quality, as well as sequester carbon. That reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.
Bunge has the capability to track and document the value of carbon savings all the way through the supply chain to market. It is like a reverse food safety recall. We know where the carbon reduction occurs when crops are grown using specific practices and we can document and share that information with our customers. We also can quantify Bunge’s reduced carbon footprint.
As we look to the future, Bunge will continue to find ways to produce more and diverse feedstocks for the fuel industry, especially if they do not compete with other crop and acreage uses. This full circle effort is part of Bunge’s larger sustainability push to reduce carbon emissions and to promote services and logistics that move renewable fuels to market responsibly. We see tremendous opportunity for our farmer-customers to choose the most sustainable practices and be recognized for generating more value for our soil, water and crop products.