|29 Jun 2005 @ 20:51, by Raymond Powers|
Biodiesel Takes It's Place at the Pump in Portland, Oregon
Portland Tribune [link]).
Biodiesel takes its place at the pump Interest in auto fuel, and its availability, increase in Portland
By JEANIE SENIOR
Jun 28, 2005
Portlander Mark Forster made the switch to biodiesel two fill-ups ago, when he drove his diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta to SeQuential Biofuels' public pumps in Northwest Portland.
It was a decision based on environmental considerations, Forster said, but it coincidentally met a challenge extended by his employer, KPFF Consulting Engineers, urging workers to find ways to make their commute environmentally friendly.
Forster said his car "seems to run exactly the same" when fueled by biodiesel an alternative fuel made from vegetable oil or other fats but with an exhaust smell that's "more pleasant" than when it runs on diesel. He paid $3.10 a gallon for 100 percent biodiesel, about 50 cents a gallon more than the present cost of petroleum diesel bought at a station that's not particularly close to where he lives.
"But I figured it's worth it," Forster said.
With crude oil prices soaring and environmental concerns growing, demand for biodiesel "is growing very fast," said Tyson Keever, a partner in SeQuential. A driver must have a diesel car to use it, however.
It costs less to buy a blend of either 5 percent or 20 percent biodiesel, mixed with petroleum diesel fuel. Even a small percentage of biodiesel will lower polluting emissions, Keever said.
And it's possible that prices could go down a bit in Portland after a joint venture, which includes SeQuential, opens the state's first big biodiesel manufacturing facility in Portland late this fall. The multimillion-dollar project has the potential to produce about 4 million gallons of vegetable oil-based fuel in a year.
"That sounds like a lot, but we use 2 million gallons of diesel in the state in a day. We've got a long way to go," Keever said. The new partnership involves SeQuential Biofuels LLC of Oregon, Pacific Biodiesel of Hawaii and several private investors including country singer and biodiesel advocate Willie Nelson.
Presently, the biodiesel SeQuential sells is shipped by rail tank car from the Midwest.
The plant will get its raw material from a number of sources, including about 50,000 gallons of cooking oil a year from Salem-based potato chip maker Kettle Foods. That will have to be augmented by other oil, ideally made from crops grown in Oregon, Keever said. "This has a tremendous potential for giving a boost to our region's agricultural economy," he said. Kettle Foods is among several Oregon companies that use biodiesel fuel in their company vehicles.
Soybeans, canola, rapeseed and mustard seeds all can be used to make oil for biodiesel, he said.
Nationally, although biodiesel is sold in all 50 states, it represents only a tiny share of the fuel used in diesel engines. About 55 billion to 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel are used annually in the United States, but the total sales of biodiesel last year was only about 25 million gallons, according to Amber Thurlo Pearson of the National Biodiesel Board.
Some users, like Forster, are attracted to biodiesel because it's less polluting than diesel; others like the idea that it's produced domestically. Brian Jamison, one of the co-founders of Portland's Go-Biodiesel Cooperative and the owner of two diesel engine cars, said the switch to biodiesel meant "freedom."
"It's hard to describe just how great it feels" to fuel a car with biodiesel, he said.
The co-op, with about 80 members, will start producing biodiesel on a much smaller scale than SeQuential later this year, using what Jamison calls a "beautiful home-built biodiesel processor" located in the Johnson Creek area of Southeast Portland.
Its capacity is about 100 gallons a day, "but it would be very easy for us to expand our production," he said.
The co-op's biodiesel, which members initially will be able to buy for $2.25 a gallon, a price including state road taxes, will be made from used deep fryer oil, donated by area restaurants.
"You would look at some of the oil and say, 'There's no way you can make biodiesel from that,' " Jamison said. But what emerges is clean biodiesel and a layer of glycerin, which is used to make bar soap.
Members of the co-op might be considered biodiesel evangelists: They've been speaking at schools, universities, corporations and state agencies to promote the use of biodiesel. Jamison said some people in the group already have been making their own biodiesel, and most of them drive cars fueled by biodiesel. Others have converted their diesel cars to run on SVO, the popular name for straight vegetable oil that hasn't gone through the chemical conversion used in making biodiesel. It does have to be filtered, however, and to burn SVO, a conversion kit that can cost about $2,000 has to be installed in a
car. It includes a separate fuel tank and a heater for the oil, which can get viscous in cool weather. Biodiesel is sold in the Portland area at SeQuential's pump at 11330 N.W. St. Helens Road, and at card-lock stations at 4505 S.E. 17th Ave. and 3537 N.W. St. Helens Road. Star Oilco sells biodiesel at a station at 232 N.E. Middlefield Road.