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Biodiesel

FreeWays to Fuel program goes to next stage with OnSite Energy

By Oliver M. Bayani

FreeWays to Fuel program goes to next stage with OnSite Energy
The FreeWays to Fuel program seeks to grow oilseed crops, like the field of canola pictured above on underutilized land found in highways, military bases or airports

Michigan State University Extension moves forward with the second stage of their biofuel research project by partnering with OnSite Energy LLC to test the potential of growing oilseed crops for biodiesel production on unused land along roads.

The university will use plant processors designed by the Michigan-based company that can crush and squeeze crops that hold considerable amounts of oil. This include canola, camelina, safflower, sunflower, mustard and flax - all which are widely studied and used by a growing number of firms for fuel production.

The crusher is mounted in an enclosed cargo trailer, making it portable to be pulled from farm to farm to teach farmers about biodiesel production. Once oil is extracted using the press, it is pumped into a unit that add chemicals automatically to process the oil into biodiesel.

The company makes 5 different models with up to 400 gallon in capacity sold as high as $$42,000. Biodiesel refined from the crops' oil may be produced in 8 hours. Glycerine, a thick, colorless, sweet tasting liquid found in almost all beauty products, is the only by-product

The aforementioned crops have long been criticized for using limited land resources for the sake of growing fuels, which can otherwise be used to grow food. The FreeWays to Fuel program led by the MSU aims to answer the problem by growing the crops on underutilized land found in highways, military bases or airports.

The university has been studying the idea for the past four years, together with 9 other schools from Utah, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Iowa, North Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania and New York. They finished the first phase of the project just last year looking at its feasibility.

Since the start of the project, they have estimated that 10 million acres of land is virtually unused for crops. Utah's Department of Transportation also said they spend $300 per mile to maintain their 6000 miles of highways

"Making fuel on site allows for long term fuel price stabilization, up to $1.00 per gallon in savings as well as supports local industry," says OnSite Energy chief executive Dr. Michael Witt.



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