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Biodiesel building blocks

Marshall, Minn. — When the state legislature passed a bill this spring requiring that biodiesel be blended with all diesel fuel sold in Minnesota, it was a big victory for the state’s farmers. But the mandate was just a first step; now proponents must lay the foundation for a Minnesota biodiesel industry.

“Since the legislation passed, we’ve received an influx of calls from groups interested in producing biodiesel,” says Rose Patzer, an AURI chemist who specializes in biodiesel. AURI, the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture have formed a task force to address issues facing the fledgling industry.

AURI is also leading a feasibility study on Minnesota’s biodiesel potential. “This will be a blanketed study for the entire state,” Patzer says. “It’s a strategic approach to assist groups interested in building manufacturing plants in Minnesota.”

The analysis will include a soybean production evaluation, market appraisals, capital requirements and processing costs, and it will identify competitors. The research will review the various feedstocks that biodiesel can be made from and the preferred production methods for each.

Industry analysis should be completed by mid-August; the findings will be released in statewide presentations.

The results will let interested groups perform self-analyses so they can “decide to go further or pull themselves out,” Patzer says. Since groups of varying size have expressed interest, large, medium and small opportunities will be addressed.

“We hope to have a very powerful tool for Minnesota,” Patzer says.