Thursday, February 26, 2009

Testing soy biodiesel in Alaska

Soybean plant (Wikipedia)

A team of scientists, researchers, soybean farmers, and truckers will be in Alaska March 5-10 for cold weather testing of biodiesel made from soybeans. The Indiana Soybean Alliance has partnered with the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences on this venture to road test Permaflo Biodiesel at northern latitudes.

“We want to highlight the versatility of Permaflo Biodiesel in two different cold climate applications, namely stationary power and transportation,” said Megan Kuhn, communications director for Indiana Soybean Alliance. The team will fly into Anchorage and drive vehicles powered with biodiesel to Fairbanks. Then part of the crew will continue the drive to the Arctic Circle where they will camp with a generator that runs on biodiesel.

“Our number one priority out of this testing is to come away with some real world testing results,” Kuhn said. “We basically want to say that we tested the fuel in some really cold weather and it performed as well or better than petrodiesel. Our second priority is to capture the whole trip on film so that we can come back and put together some educational/promotional videos. Our third priority is to let our farmers and the biodiesel industry know about the testing and our results.”

Permaflo Biodiesel is a unique formulation of biodiesel that is processed using a simple, novel process (patent pending) that significantly reduces the traditional problems of biodiesel performance in cold-weather conditions. The biodiesel is made by removing the saturated methyl ester fraction of biodiesel using urea fractionation, which changes the chemical composition of biodiesel to lower the cloud point temperature (the point when crystallization starts, so called because the oil begins to appear clouded). Purdue University Professor Bernie Tao created the technology with funding from the Indiana Soybean Alliance. Tao contacted UAF Assistant Professor Andy Soria at the Palmer Research and Extension Center for collaboration on the Alaska testing project.

Soria is working to discover potential biofuel and bio-based products from the chemistry of Alaska trees. A pioneer in the liquefaction of wood-using supercritical fluids, Soria is building a biofuel laboratory at the Palmer Research and Extension Center to develop and test biofuels made from low-grade wood, woody biomass, and fire and insect-killed trees.

Following the testing, a presentation will be given March 9 at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. The workshop will highlight the results of five years of research in developing cold climate biodiesel capable of working at temperatures below –67 degrees F without gelling. Topics will include:

• Overcoming cold flow properties of biodiesel
• Unveiling of patent-pending Permaflow technology
• Challenges of producing biofuel crops in Alaska
• Role of natural resources in meeting Alaska’s energy and sustainability needs
• Ongoing research projects at the Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station involving biofuels and locally available biomass
• Future work and implications

If interested in attending the seminar, please contact Marilyn Childress by March 6 at 474-7083 or

Links and further reading:
"Tao's Team," Biodiesel Magazine, July/August 2004, by Jessica Williams
"Researcher seeks energy answer in biofuels" SNRAS Science & News blog, Oct. 30, 2008, by Nancy Tarnai and Andy Soria

Addendum:"Hoosiers test soybean fuel in Alaska," by Dermot Cole, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 4, 2009
Mission: Arctic Circle, Indiana Soybean Alliance
"Cold-weather soy fuel test in Fairbanks has biodiesel advocates thrilled," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 9, 2009, by Amanda Bohman

1 comment:

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