Start-Up: NetZero Biofuels

NetZero Biofuels, a startup on the banks of the Hudson River, is making biodiesel from soybean oil.

DuMond Farms, Union Springs, N.Y., a grower of soybeans and other crops, produces soybean oil and trucks it to the NetZero plant in New Windsor, N.Y., on the western side of the Hudson. NetZero received the first delivery of soybean oil on April 28, the day of an open house.

Dave Davenport is the managing partner and chief executive officer of NetZero Biofuels. He brings to the leadership team 30+ years’ experience in the liquid fuels industry. After working for decades in his family’s energy services business, he founded propane delivery and equipment services company Chili Gas, in 2008. Davenport has served on the board of directors, and as a past president of the Hudson Valley Oil & Energy Council.

Also involved in the venture in various capacities are Richard R. Pratt III, Leonard McConnell, who designed the production system, and chemist Alfredo Acevedo.

Pratt said the tanks in the 20,000-square-foot warehouse in New Windsor were used in a previous biofuels venture in Florida. The tanks were transported from Florida to New Windsor on barges, Pratt said.

Annual production capacity is 10 million gallons, the entrepreneurs said.

Last year, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill phasing in a requirement for all heating oil sold in state to contain 20% biodiesel.

The new law calls for increasingly higher blends, starting with 5% statewide by July 1, 2022, then phasing up to 10% in 2025 before the 20% requirement takes effect in 2030. A 5% standard has been in place for New York City and Long Island since 2017, and some fuel dealers are already selling blends as high as 50% (B50).

“The measures contained in this bill, which will take a fuel blending requirement statewide, are one of the many steps the State must take in order to meet the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and reduce the States’ greenhouse gas emissions,” Governor Hochul wrote in an approval memo. The governor also cited biodiesel’s “immediate air quality and public health benefits.”

New York’s home heating industry has been a vocal proponent of biodiesel-blended heating oil, or “Bioheat fuel,” for many years, and has pledged to work with government policymakers to reduce home heating fuel emissions to net-zero by 2050. Biodiesel has been in widespread use throughout New York and the greater Northeast for more than a decade. Equipment testing with various blend levels is ongoing at the National Oilheat Research Alliance laboratory in Plainview, New York. Research demonstrates that consumers do not need to modify their current oil-fired heating equipment to use this low-carbon heating fuel, experts said. “Bioheat fuel helps to eliminate fossil fuels and can be used without replacing existing heating systems, making it a low-cost, low-carbon solution that is available right here, right now,” said New York State Energy Coalition CEO Rocco J. Lacertosa and Empire State Energy Association Executive Director Kris DeLair in a joint statement. “We applaud Governor Hochul for signing this legislation, which makes New York the largest state to enact a biodiesel blending requirement for home heating fuel. We’d also like to thank State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, State Senator Todd Kaminsky and the National Biodiesel Board for their leadership on this issue.” They said that approximately 1.4 million homes in New York State depend on heating oil or blended Bioheat fuel for warmth each winter. —Stephen Bennett

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