FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HERO BX celebrates 10 year anniversary of first production
Erie, PA– Last week Lake Erie Biofuels, dba HERO BX, celebrated a decade of producing America’s advanced biodiesel at its flagship production facility on the shores of Lake Erie.
“This is very exciting,” said Erie-business man, Founder and CEO Samuel P. “Pat” Black, III. “We are all very humbled by this milestone and incredibly fortunate to share it with a team that is so committed and meticulous.”
Biodiesel, also known by its chemical handle of methyl esters, is produced from a chemical reaction of waste fats, waste oils and virgin vegetable oils with alcohol and can be used safely and reliably as a drop-in replacement for petroleum diesel. Over the last few decades, biodiesel has become a mainstream fuel source that started from an effort to find a market for a surplus soybean oil that was eating away farm profits. Fast forward to present day, various biodiesel blends are now found in transportation fuel, heating oil and most other diesel fuel uses across the United States.
Biodiesel turns waste into energy and that is what attracted Black to this business, “Mother Nature has her own way of recycling everything and modeling our production after that has proven to be not only to be incredibly successful, but also gives back more energy than it takes.”
For every unit of energy needed for production, biodiesel returns up to five units — petroleum diesel takes more than it gives back. Biodiesel also reduces carbon emissions as it burns cleanly and efficiently and can replace petroleum diesel in today’s engines and burners without modifying them. “Rudolph Diesel knew in the early 1900s that cars could run on fuel from agricultural products and his engine that we still use today was designed with that in mind,” said Black.
HERO BX bears witness to Black’s commitment to help revitalize Erie with a return to a booming manufacturing sector. The production facility sits on a 13 acre footprint of industrial land where the Hammermill Paper and International Paper mills once stood. Black’s vision was a company that would create meaningful jobs, spur technological innovation and produce eco-friendly products.
“It is ironic that on the same site as an incredibly dirty and polluting industry we now produce renewable energy,” said Chris Peterson, Vice President of Finance & Commodity Risk for HERO BX. Peterson oversees feedstock procurement, commodity hedging activities as well as the day to day financial and regulatory management of HERO BX. He has spent a decade in the trenches with his equally devoted colleagues to make HERO BX the largest in biodiesel production east of the Mississippi.
In 2015, HERO BX headed south to an underserved market and took control of a faltering facility in Moundville, Alabama. After extensive infrastructure investment and morale boosting, the Moundville facility is now running on all cylinders. Present day, HERO BX has an annual production capacity of upwards of 75 million gallons and employs over 100 people. “We are committed to diversifying the energy portfolio across this country and by doing so, offering a more environmentally friendly product to consumers.”
HERO BX has achieved the coveted BQ-9000 accreditation from the National Biodiesel Board after passing a rigorous review and inspection of its quality control processes. The Erie facility boasts a state of the art, on-site laboratory to ensure adherence to the strict biodiesel specification of ASTM D6751 and has developed a proprietary filtration system. “Not a single production lot has been returned,” said John Nies, Vice President of Operations at HERO BX. “We work tirelessly each and every day to produce the highest quality product each time, every time.” Nies oversees the operations at the HERO BX facility in Erie, as well as Moundville, Alabama and North Hampton, New Hampshire.
With an eye to developing a direct market to consumers in the heating oil market of New England, HERO BX saw an opportunity to invest in a blending and distribution terminal in North Hampton, New Hampshire. “We made an investment in infrastructure to get biodiesel into the hands of dealers that were clamoring for it and ultimately, to the consumer,” said Vice President of Sales Tim Keaveney.
In late 2016, HERO BX first launched the HERO BX Branded Bioheat® Program utilizing the North Hampton blending and distribution to enable fuel oil dealers to procure biodiesel efficiently through customized blends. The first HERO BX Branded Bioheat® partners were Dover-based D.F. Richard Energy and Estes Oil & Propane of York, Maine, both steeped in tradition as regional fuel-oil distributors. “HERO BX wanted to expand its commitment to quality and earn the right to become a household name in the heating oil industry. And I think we’ve done just that.”
Black, Peterson, Nies and Keaveney will admit that the biodiesel industry is not without its challenges. “We are somewhat a David and Goliath scenario,” said Black in reference to biodiesel essentially being an oil industry itself. “We have been quietly reducing our dependence on foreign oil for many years, increasing our market share and providing an American-made liquid energy source for consumers.” Biodiesel competes in the world energy market right alongside petroleum diesel and the industry has fought for recognition by federal policymakers. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 set biodiesel on a forward course, mandating government fleets to use alternative fuels and saw further bolstering under the Renewable Fuel Standard as well as the Blender’s Tax Credit Program. “We’ve gained a foothold under these programs,” added Black. “But there is a long way to go towards true energy independence.”
At gas pumps across Erie County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, motorists fill up with diesel fuel that contains a 2% blend of biodiesel under a Pennsylvania mandate. Many have no idea that in 2010 the mandate went into effect and once in-state production capacity reaches 100 million gallons, that mandate will increase to 5%, then 10% at 200 million gallons and 20% at 400 million gallons. Additionally, State Representative Patrick J. Harkins of Erie represents the district that is home to HERO BX and has offered legislation to enact a 2% mandate on home heating oil as the eastern-most counties of Pennsylvania rely on that fuel source. Be sure that HERO BX has their eye on that prize as “everybody wins,” said Black. “HERO BX can expand and employ more local people and the Pennsylvania consumer has access to a cleaner burning, more efficient fuel source.”
The demand for energy in our country continues to rise and biodiesel continues to offer the prospect of a cleaner and safer planet as it helps both today and tomorrow to power our world by conserving limited resources of fossil fuels. “Running out of energy is not an option,” offered Black, “and the renewable nature of biodiesel prevents just that.”
Ten years from today, HERO BX will continue to offer innovative, sustainable fuel technology and remain committed to finding avenues to increase biodiesel use across the United States and beyond. Pat Black is both excited and optimistic about what types of advances biodiesel will see across the next decade.
“Biodiesel has the ability to pave the way for future generations as the industry gives value to waste by converting it to energy. We offer fuel for humanity.”