Biodiesel refinery hopes to finally begin soon

Dec 15, 2009 David Brooks

Starting up a new business is tough, but starting up in a new industry can be even tougher. That helps explain why the city's cutting-edge biodiesel refinery, one of a handful of its kind in the country, hasn't begun production a year after its grand opening.

Batchelder Refineries is still awaiting certification from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) so it can sell fuel made from "brown grease," the gunkiest leftovers from restaurants.

"That has taken substantially longer than we all anticipated because ASTM testing has changed," said Christopher Langille, a research associate at Keene State University, who's part of the group developing the refinery and a related biodiesel project in Keene.

The testing society now requires an antioxidant in the fuel, which it says is needed to help keep biodiesel from harming engines. Changing standards are a common problem with new industries, and commercial-scale biodiesel from brown grease is relatively uncommon.

Langille said the refinery hopes to get certification as early as this week, after which it quickly could ramp up production to commercial levels.

"We're producing small volumes for our boilers now," he said.

The refinery is located in part of a former mill building on the north side of the Nashua River, near Nashua Christian Academy.

In a related move, construction should begin in early January in Keene of a biodiesel laboratory and research facility that will be half leased by the city of Keene, which has long been a pioneer in the use of biodiesel in its vehicles, and half by Keene State University.

Batchelder Biodiesel is planning to develop space alongside it for a "community-scale production facility," Langille said. Financing remains a complication.

Despite the struggles, Batch-elder Biodiesel is doing better than many companies in the biodisel industry, which has been hammered by the credit crunch and the fall in oil prices and which has made fossil-fuel-based heating oil and diesel less expensive than biodiesel versions.

A report said 2009 U.S. biodiesel production dropped 31 percent this year, and several biodiesel firms have gone into bankruptcy.

Most of that, however, is corn-based biofuel. Batchelder's use of "brown grease" that would otherwise be taken to a landfill makes the technology more difficult but the cost structure a little easier.

"We have a little bit of an advantage, since the incoming product is all waste stream," Langille said. "Not having to pay for raw materials is a help."

The refinery plans to get used grease from restaurants, collected by Stewart Septic, of Bradford, Mass. The firm filters out solids and similar material, then delivers it to the refinery, where it's stored in 2,000-gallon tanks.

The is heated to 135 degrees and mixed with methoxide, which acts as a catalyst to help the various chemicals separate.

That mix is sent up a separator column, a basic piece of equipment for refineries. As it moves up the column, different compounds separate out at different temperatures and pressures, including water, which is reused, and glycerol, which the refinery will burn to help fuel the heater.

Rymes Propane & Oils, which has sold biodiesel in New Hampshire since 2004, will sell the product at the retail level.

Explore further: Cook farm waste into energy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Biodiesel fuel use growing steadily

Jul 03, 2006

Biodiesel fuel, a renewable energy source, is beginning to integrate into the U.S. farming and trucking industries, the San Francisco Chronicle says.

Waste coffee grounds offer new source of biodiesel fuel

Dec 10, 2008

Researchers in Nevada are reporting that waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel for powering cars and trucks. Their study has been published ...

Bringing the Biodiesel

Jun 08, 2009

For some people, "biodiesel" might seem like a novelty product for which only hybrid car-driving tree huggers wouldn't mind paying a premium.

A 'shrimp cocktail' to fuel cars and trucks

Jul 29, 2009

Call it a "shrimp cocktail" for your fuel tank. Scientists in China are reporting development of a catalyst made from shrimp shells that could transform production of biodiesel fuel into a faster, less expensive, ...

Finding a better way to make biodiesel

Jun 19, 2006

They're only 250 billionths of a meter in diameter. But fill them with the right chemistry and Iowa State scientists say the tiny nanospheres they've developed could revolutionize how biodiesel is produced.

Recommended for you

Cook farm waste into energy

3 hours ago

It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.

Developing a reliable wind 'super grid' for Europe

5 hours ago

EU researchers are involved in the development of a pan-European 'super grid' capable of dispersing wind power across Member States. This will bring more renewable energy into homes and businesses, help reduce ...

Boeing 737 factory to move to clean energy

22 hours ago

Boeing said Tuesday it plans to buy renewable energy credits to replace fossil-fuel power at the factory in Washington state where it assembles its 737 commercial airplanes.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.