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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

New Leaf Biofuel to shut down biodiesel plant by end of year


Jennifer Case, president and co-founder of New Leaf Biofuel, and Tyler Case, chief operating officer (Photo: New Leaf Biofuel)

New Leaf Biofuel, a community-scale biodiesel plant in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego, California, plans to shut down its biodiesel operations by the end of this year.

The company, founded in 2006, made the decision based on economic conditions combined with the difficulties of continuing to operate under heavy regulatory and neighborhood pressures.

Growing opposition to New Leaf Biofuel from Barrio Logan residents about odors from the waste-based biodiesel plant, even after additional controls were installed, stopped the company’s plans to connect its feedstock-processing and biodiesel facilities with a pipeline, despite the fact that this would have significantly reduced truck traffic in the neighborhood.

The conflict between residents and New Leaf Biofuel was a contributing factor in the decision to cease biodiesel production.

In addition, the changing biobased diesel landscape in the U.S. also played a role.

“Along with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and biodiesel tax incentive, the [California Low Carbon Fuel Standard] worked remarkably well to stimulate the renewable industry, resulting in natural industry growth and consolidation that has accelerated in recent years with total production more than doubling since 2020,” the company stated. “Community-sized plants like New Leaf struggle to compete in this new landscape, where the major fuel refiners are now owners of renewable fuel plants with greater access to feedstock and far superior economies of scale.”

New Leaf Biofuel was one of the pioneers of the California biodiesel industry, lobbying for the LCFS and other policies that transformed the fuel landscape to where it is today—where more than 50 percent of the 3.5 billion gallons of diesel used annually is made from renewable sources.

In early 2021, the company completed a major two-phase, four-year expansion project, more than doubling biodiesel production capacity from 5 million gallons per year (mgy) to 12 mgy.

“During our tenure, New Leaf produced approximately 40 million gallons of ultra-low carbon biodiesel, displacing 40 million gallons of petroleum diesel and avoiding over 500,000 tons of carbon, the equivalent of removing over 100,000 cars from the road for a year,” the company stated.

Even though the company’s biodiesel operations are shutting down, New Leaf Biofuel will continue its used cooking oil (UCO) and grease-trap services.

“Our restaurant clients can rest assured that our clean and efficient cooking-oil and grease-trap services will continue uninterrupted throughout the transition period and into the future,” the company stated. “New Leaf will continue to support the renewable fuel industry, ensuring that every gallon of cooking oil collected is converted to renewable fuels in accordance with the company’s mission.”

In addition, New Leaf Biofuel stated that it will continue to bring hundreds of millions of gallons of biodiesel, renewable diesel and ethanol to California through its Renewable Fuel Terminal in Fontana.

Once complete later this year, the terminal will provide storage and truck loading for renewable diesel and biodiesel as well as rail transloading for ethanol.

“Similar to our restaurant services, this line of business will continue as planned, without interruption,” New Leaf Biofuel said. “While our time producing biodiesel has come to an end, we are committed to continuing our mission of making a positive impact on the world by sourcing low-carbon feedstock and helping to support the production and use renewable fuels in California.”

The company added that, since its founding in 2006, its mission was to make a positive impact on the world by producing an ultra-low carbon biodiesel fuel made from UCO.

“For nearly two decades, the company has partnered with Southern California restaurants to ensure the safe, clean and efficient recycling of cooking oil, which was converted into biodiesel fuel at its Barrio Logan-based biorefinery,” New Leaf Biofuel stated. “The fuel made at New Leaf’s plant was one of the lowest-carbon fuels available for sale in California, with a carbon intensity score demonstrating an 85 percent reduction in carbon compared to petroleum diesel.”

The company thanked those who helped make the plant successful over the past nearly two decades, including the California Air Resources Board, the city and county of San Diego and its elected officials, the California Energy Commission, Clean Cities, the trade organizations Clean Fuels Alliance America and the California Advanced Biofuels Alliance, local fleets and truck stops, and thousands of Southern California restaurants.

“Most importantly, we want to recognize our fantastic plant-operations team who have kept this plant running for the past 15 years to ensure a steady supply of biodiesel to the market,” New Leaf Biofuel stated. “We are devastated that over 25 people will lose their jobs as a result of this closure.”

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