Biodico: Helping the U.S. Achieve Energy Independence

Biodico is a company that designs, builds, owns and operates sustainable biorefineries that produce biofuels, bioenergy and biochemical. Russ Teall, president and founder of Biodico, is proud of what the company has accomplished over the years.

The core Modular Production Unit (MPU) was designed and built by Teall in 2000. It was then put into service at lab scale and expanded in scope and capacity by 2002, with the full pilot scale R&D facility installed in 2003 at the U.S. Naval Base Ventura County. The design-build and operate critical path was created under the auspices of the company’s Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Navy. This modular multi-feedstock technology was awarded a U.S. patent in 2004.

When Teall was initially tasked with developing integrated, distributed energy systems there were three primary objectives. The first objective was to build a deploy-able modular production facility to convert waste cooking oil into biodiesel for use on military facilities to offset any major disruption in crude oil delivery or petroleum distribution, i.e. national defense. The second was to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels imported from nonaligned foreign countries. The third objective was to address the increasing environmental issues by reducing engine emissions and the carbon footprint of naval installations. Phase III of the patented MPU has been expanded to 10-plus mgy (million gallons per year), which incorporated the jointly developed ARIES Technology and is still capable of worldwide deployment.

Nationwide Commitment

Regardless of political persuasion, every succeeding administration since the crippling oil embargoes of 1967, 1973 and 1979 has held one of its goals to be achieving energy independence from foreign, unstable sources. The country’s dependence on foreign oil has increased since the embargoes, global reserves have decreased, and the economy has been buffeted by a series oil price increases.

“Fuel and energy production from nontraditional sources have added to the nation’s energy reserves in the past, but progress needs to be accelerated if we are to avoid the negative consequences of foreign entanglements and future energy disruptions,” says Teall. “President Obama’s 'all of the above' approach to energy independence requires a nationwide commitment and should be considered a supplement to existing fuel and energy sources, rather than as the competition.”

Biodico has positioned itself to play a pivotal role in meeting this commitment.

Teall founded Biodico’s predecessor research and development companies in 1994, and have since developed patented and proprietary technologies that have allowed the companies to build advanced biofuel facilities in Colorado, Texas, Nevada, California and Australia.

One of the biorefinery products, biomass-based diesel, is currently the only advanced alternative to fossil fuels sold commercially and is a clean-burning fuel created from domestic renewable resources. “Creating truly sustainable systems requires a thorough understanding of every aspect of biorefinery operations from feedstock development to the distribution of finished products,” says Teall.

Revolutionizing Biomass Renewable Diesel Production

Biodico has been headquartered at the U.S. Naval Base in Port Hueneme, Calif., since May 2002. This location includes a staff of 25 personnel, along with contractors in the engineering and scientific disciplines. Biodico worked closely with the U.S. Navy, the California Energy Commission, private industry and leading academics to create the world’s first Automated Real-Time, Remote, Integrated Energy System (ARIES). ARIES is a derivative of the original Modular Production Unit (MPU) designed and built under the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.

The company’s ARIES managed biorefinery is an automated transportable production facility that can be remotely monitored from a central command and control location. “The U.S. Navy is one of world’s largest energy consumers and takes very seriously the advancement of renewable, cost effective, alternative energy and fuels for national defense and its commitment to the environment,” continues Teall. “They are very interested in an intelligent neural network of globally distributed renewable fuel, heat and energy production facilities centrally controlled and supported. The ARIES technology ensures reliable process control and optimal production yields in a sustainable system that can be readily and widely deployed both in the military and civilian sectors.”

10 Million-gallon Production Annually

The Biodico refinery currently under construction on Naval Base Ventura is expected to be operational in late 2012. The facility will produce an estimated 10 million gallons of bio-based diesel fuel annually and generate 25 times more power than it consumes. The excess electricity will be sold locally to either or both the military and civilian grid. Other revenue generating co-products are used in the ever-expanding specialty chemicals industry.

ARIES was developed as a means of controlling and integrating the essential elements of a self-sufficient biorefinery by providing feedstock cultivation and collection, biofuel and biochemical production and bioenergy generation from the gasification and anaerobic digestion of by-products. The ARIES technology creates robust and easily operated energy islands through remote, real-time sensing and monitoring from a central command and control location, military or civilian.

Teall’s philosophy from the very beginning has been feedstock first. Biodico has conducted biomass-related production and feasibility reports for rural feed stock development for individual companies and governments around the world, including Bolivia, China, Ghana, Haiti, India, Paraguay, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Biodico now maintains nurseries and orchard development programs for various biofuel crops such as jatropha, canola and castor in Argentina, India, Mexico and the Central Valley of California, which includes advanced collaborative alga culture developments.

Universities in India and Mexico are also part of the Biodico Collaborative. “As an example, the approach we have taken with algae has been to jointly develop unique and robust technologies that resolve fundamental barriers, and enable the use of waste products to enhance alga culture productivity and economic viability,” continues Teall.

“We take the same approach with our entire portfolio of feedstock,” says JJ Rothgery, board chairman at Biodico. “Biodico’s years of advanced work with jatropha, algae and other sustainable biofuel crops are critically important for scale achieved with the ARIES platform. Our proprietary methods of feed stock development make the ARIES technology the ideal solution for creating a globally distributed network of biorefineries, which creates its own feedstock through gasification and anaerobic digestion to supplement the algae and biofuel crops needed for large-scale commercial production.”.

The last time the United States was energy independent was in 1952, when petroleum imports were balanced out by the domestic production of coal. In the coming years, energy independence is looming as a plausible goal and is due in part to the ingenuity of companies like Biodico, leading the way in the production of nonfossil fuel energy sources. Biodico’s years of experience in biomass-based renewable fuel production – and its collaboration with the U.S. Navy, the California Energy Commission, private industry and leading academic institutions on the ARIES project – have earned Biodico and Russell Teall the position as an industry leader in sustainable energy production.