News / USA

Company Takes Biodiesel From Field to Fryer to Fuel


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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs