3. INFORMATIONAL PRESENTATION: Presentation by the author of Not a Gas Station about starting the Biofuel Oasis.
SPONSOR: Member Melissa Hardy
SPEAKER: Ms. Jennifer Radtke
Member Hardy introduced Ms. Jennifer Radtke, co-founder of the Biofuel Oasis, a fully permitted biodiesel filling station in Berkeley, and author of a book Not a Gas Station about the process of starting the Biofuel Oasis.
Ms. Jennifer Radtke gave a presentation about her experiences in starting the Biofuel Oasis. It was stated that the Biofuel Oasis is a five-member worker owned cooperative corporation and is the only public pump in the San Francisco Bay Area that retails biodiesel B99.9. Ms. Radtke stressed the importance of their effort to provide community service and education to customers as being an important element of their success. Topics discussed included:
· History of Biofuels Oasis. Biofuels Oasis started selling biodiesel in December 2003 and has been the only place to purchase biodiesel in the San Francisco Bay Area other than a new fueling pump that just opened in the past couple of months in San Anselmo.
· Zoning Permit Process and Experiences. Discussion on zoning of current and future location, Berkeley’s concerns with parking and traffic, and timing for issuance of permit (four months).
· Building Permit Requirements. Installation of above ground tanks presents earthquake issues (earthquake strapping required), tank containment required. The Building Department was concerned whether the facility was structurally sound. A floor plan was presented.
· Hazardous Material/Toxics Approvals in Berkeley. Discussion of HAZMAT fees, requirement for Hazardous Material Business Plan, Environmental Protection Agency rule to have 110% second containment.
· Fire Department Approval Requirements. Biodiesel is a Class IIIB Liquid (combustible liquid), concern with tanks being plastic (which is combustible) instead of metal. California Fire Code provisions allow tanks of combustible materials for Class IIIB liquids if on the site you are not storing Class I or Class II liquids. Future plan for (1) installation of stainless steel tanks and (2) containment similar to cement blocks because of safety concerns and ease of permit approvals.
Chair Bowen stated that the San Francisco Fire Department was not in support of an indoor facility because of the difficulty to fight fires and asked if the Berkeley Fire Department had any concerns with an indoor facility. Ms. Radtke stated that CFC7902.1.8.2.7 is only for indoor spaces.
Public Comment: Mr. von Wedel asked if there was a requirement for sprinklers and explained the San Francisco Fire Department’s concerns and situations a fire could present. Ms. Radtke stated that there was not a requirement for sprinklers.
· Public Support. Ms. Radtke indicated that there was a lot of public support for biodiesel and that the Berkeley Mayor and relevant Departments were influenced to issue approvals.
· California State Permits. Certain pumps have to be certified and inspected by Weights and Measures every 18 months to make sure they are pumping the amount of gallons registered. Fee is charged. California Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) requires a Variance if you sell biodiesel B20 and above.
· Independent Biodiesel Stations. Ms. Radtke discussed the positive aspects of an independent biodiesel station selling biodiesel versus a gas station. It was stated that an independent biodiesel station usually has better fuel quality, provides customer education, and has more of a sustainability focus than a gas station. Ms. Radtke encouraged the Task Force to put in incentives for people starting biodiesel stations.
Member Mackin asked if biodiesel was more complicated to handle than regular diesel. Ms. Radtke stated that biodiesel is different than petroleum and that 20% of petroleum diesel in California does not meet specifications. Chair Bowen explained that biodiesel is less tolerant to abuse than petroleum diesel. It was stated that the handling of biodiesel has to be different which makes it difficult to educate petroleum distribution companies because they want to treat it like any other product. Mr. von Wedel stated that is why very stringent contracts have to be written for fleets that contain specific terms and conditions, back-up plans to resolve problems with storage, and that the distributor quickly resolves the problems or pay for replacement.
Member Mackin inquired about the feasibility of adding additives to biodiesel. Mr. von Wedel stated that it is preferable to have quality fuel and good practice, e.g. how the facility produces the product, how it is handled on the railcar, how it is distributed locally, how it is stored, and how the customer uses and stores it. Ms. Radtke stated that it is important to have a program in place to test your fuel every time you get a delivery.
Vice-Chair Hagen inquired about warranty issues that people may have encountered with the use of biodiesel. Ms. Radtke advised that the car manufacturers and dealers are aware of biodiesel and try to void the warranty if 100% biodiesel is used. Most of the car manufacturers warranty B5. Ms. Radtke stated that she advises her customers of this issue.
Public Comment: Mr. David Gavrich inquired about pricing. Ms. Radtke stated that pricing for the past year and a half has been from $3.65 to $3.70 a gallon and the price at the pump for petroleum diesel has varied, but traditionally the price is $1.00 a gallon more than petroleum diesel. It was stated that at this time, petroleum diesel is about $3.00 a gallon. Mr. Gafferd asked if there is a fluctuation in business as a result of petroleum diesel price increases. Ms. Radtke stated when the price of petroleum diesel increases they do see an increase in business. Mr. Gafferd asked if customers come in to blend in the
tank. Ms. Radtke stated that the best way is to put biodiesel in second because it is heavier and more likely to sink down.
Member Ving inquired if Ms. Radtke would have done anything differently after gaining the experience. Ms. Radtke stated that she would have looked for a different location because of traffic issues.
Vice-Chair Hagen inquired about the start-up dollar cost. Ms. Radtke stated that the cost was approximately $20,000 for permitting, equipment and rent. It was indicted that free labor was given by the structural engineers and for building the containment. Money was raised by employee contributions, fund raising and reinvestment. Vice Chair Hagen asked how long the process took in order to get started selling the fuel. Ms. Radtke explained that they got the space in August 2003 and started selling in December 2003. It was stated that the process at a new location would take about six months just for the use permit and then they would have to get a building permit.
· Contact information: JenniferRadtke@yahoo.com; 510-665-5509; www.biofuelsoasis.com; www.backyardbiodiesel.org.
Ms. Radtke advised that she and Member Hardy will be teaching a class on starting the Biofuels Oasis from February 18-23 at the Biofuels Oasis. Next steps are to encourage others to startup a biodiesel station. Not a Gas Station can be purchased at www.backyardbiodiesel.org.