News / USA

Company Takes Biodiesel From Field to Fryer to Fuel

Multimedia

In the worldwide search for alternative energy sources, vegetable oil is becoming an increasingly popular substitute for crude oil.  

Just a 90-minute drive from Washington, D.C., one company is working to take oil from the canola plant from the field to the fryer to the fuel tank, and do it all locally.

Company executives say it's a system that could work anywhere in the world.

At Cork Street Tavern in Winchester, Virginia, kitchen manager Chris Bennett cooks his freshly-fried potato chips in canola oil from Shenandoah Agricultural Products, a small company just a few kilometers away.

"It's nice to help out hardworking local people," he says.

After the restaurant has fried all it can with the oil, Shenandoah has plans for it.

"They're going to turn it into biodiesel," says Bennett.

Plant power

Biodiesel is diesel fuel made from plants, not petroleum. Shenandoah runs its farm equipment with it.  

"Humans and everything that goes on are just part of a bigger picture," says Diane Kearns, who runs the company. "And so, if we can do things sustainably, environmentally, that's really a huge help. Everything has to work economically, too."

Farming is on the decline in this area as the suburbs gradually encroach. Kearns wants to find a way to keep local agriculture in business while helping the environment. She thinks biofuel crops might help, but is not in it for the money.

"The reason for doing this is not to make a million dollars," says Kearns. "The reason to do this is to empower local ag and prove you can be sustainable with this kind of stuff."

Full circle

Biodiesel is a growing worldwide industry but Kearns and her partners are different in that they do it all. Kearns grows canola and then her partner, Josh Leidhecker, makes it into the fryer oil they sell to local restaurants.

Then they take the used oil back and turn it into biodiesel fuel in a system Leidhecker designed and built himself.

"I am a backwoods engineer," Leidhecker says. "I don't have any formal training in engineering. I've always just been intuitive in figuring things out."

Mobile refinery

He even figured out a way to put it all inside the back of a tractor-trailer.

"We wanted to design a system that was truly mobile, that we could take to the consumer and produce the fuel for them on site," Leidhecker adds.

Since it is mobile, and the chemical process is simple, he says it could work anywhere in the world where farmers have an oilseed crop.

According to Kearns, the system is economical, too. Their biodiesel costs about the same to make as the regular diesel fuel they buy.

"With a little bit of profit margin in there, the cost is coming out pretty darn close," Kearns says, "which I'm really psyched about."

They can even sell their vegetable oil for less than their competitors, which means kitchen manager Bennett is pretty excited, too.

"I think it's a great idea, especially with gas costing more than milk now," Bennett says.  "It's going to save us money, save them money, and help the environment as well."

All that, and help local farmers, too.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs