Ambitious local biodiesel plan gets big boost

Here’s the press release from the AdvantageWest Economic Development Group:

Pilot project will demonstrate the Field to Fryer to Fuel business model, aiming to produce 300,000 gallons of biofuels per year in the region

October 2012 – A $130,000 grant from The Biofuels Center of North Carolina to a group of public and private partners led by AdvantageWest is providing “seed money” aimed at developing the clean energy industry in Western North Carolina. The project will pilot a new business model for the production of biodiesel from locally grown feedstocks that will reduce the region’s dependence on imported fuels. 

Through the Field to Fryer to Fuel (F3) initiative, project partners will plant canola seed that will be pressed into food-grade oil for area restaurants. The used fryer oil will then be converted to about 5,000 gallons of biofuel. The whole process, from sowing seed to producing biofuel, will take less than one year.

In addition to testing the F3 business model for biofuel production, project partners hope to attract investors for a larger scale operation that will produce around 300,000 gallons of biofuel per year in the region.

Project partners receiving support under the Biofuels Center award in addition to AdvantageWest are: Asheville-based Algaenan Energy Corporation (AEC), Blue Ridge Biofuels, Land-of-Sky Regional Council, and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., which is providing laboratory services for the pilot. Other partners contributing expertise or other resources include Appalachian State University, Biltmore, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, and the N.C. State Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center.

“Our objective with this collaboration is to develop and expand Western North Carolina’s hub of clean energy industries,” says Matt Raker, vice president of AdvantageWest’s green-tech program, AdvantageGreen. “A cluster analysis we published with Land-of-Sky Regional Council and other business and community members of the EvolveEnergy Partnership identified biofuels as an area of great potential for our region. We expect this project to measurably advance biofuel production and commercialization.”

The project consists of three core activities:

• Feedstock testing and analysis. This activity will assess the economic viability of a large-scale biodiesel and renewable biochemicals production facility in the region using patented technology licensed by AEC. Raker says there’s the potential of significant economic impact as this production process could potentially provide low-margin biodiesel producers a much more robust level of profitability.

• Demonstrating the F3 business model. Approximately 50 acres of canola seed have been planted on the Biltmore Estate. The crop will be harvested in the spring of 2013, then pressed in a mobile unit supplied by ASU and processed and refined in a facility built by Blue Ridge Biofuels.

The agribusiness program of AdvantageWest, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, will provide guidance on FDA and other food processing related regulations, while ASU will assist in analytical testing of the refined oil to insure that it meets requirements.

The resulting 7,000 gallons of food-grade oil will be provided to restaurants for use in cooking during the summer of 2013. The post-cooking “waste oil” will then be returned to Blue Ridge Biofuels for the production of biofuel. The partners estimate that this process will result in 5,000 gallons of usable fuel, which will be sold to consumers to operate their biofuel-ready vehicles.

• Conducting a biofuels end-user market survey. Project partners will survey large consumers of diesel fuel for vehicular use, such as trucking operations and fleet administrators, as well as those who use it for heating. This process will aid in developing marketing strategies to strengthen the region’s understanding and usage of biofuels.

North Carolina’s Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership, developed by the state legislature in 2007, calls for 10 percent of the state’s imported oil to be replaced with local biofuels by 2017. The Biofuels Center of North Carolina was established to achieve the state’s strategic goals and is the nation’s only agency working comprehensively over time for all aspects of biofuels development. One of 12 initiatives awarded by the Biofuels Center from across North Carolina, the F3 project can be replicated statewide if it achieves expected results.

More about AdvantageWest:

AdvantageWest is one of seven regional economic development partnerships across North Carolina. The nonprofit, public-private partnership serves the 23 westernmost counties of the state, a geographic region of about 10,000 square miles or about the size of the State of Maryland. AdvantageWest’s program of work focuses on advanced manufacturing; entrepreneurial development activities such as Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council (BREC) and the Certified Entrepreneurial Community® Program (CEC); agribusiness through Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a food and natural products business incubator and commercial kitchen; the green-tech jobs initiative AdvantageGreen and the clean-energy economy initiative EvolveEnergy Partnership; and the filmmaking industry, through the WNC Film Commission. Chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1994, AdvantageWest is governed by a 21-member board of directors. For more information, visit or call (828) 687-7234.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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