Biofuel Production: A Step Toward the Future

Bioenergy Research Initiative Grant Program

Last updated Jul. 12, 2018 - 10:53 am
Biofuel Production Program

The City of Raleigh received funds under “Priority 2: Civic and Small-scale Biofuels” to better understand costs and benefits for biofuel production on municipal lands for its own benefit and to serve as a model for other NC municipalities. Raleigh manages waste land application facilities for wastewater and biosolids treatment as a function of the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility (NRRRF) the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Eighty-one of NC’s 100 counties have at least one municipal facility land applying waste, totaling more than 81,805 acres (Nielson, 2011). Biofuel production advances at City of Raleigh facilities will be relevant to most NC municipalities, helping meet the goal of displacing 10% of petroleum fuels used in NC with locally grown biofuels while reducing competition between food and biofuels for prime agriculture land (Nichols and Hazel, 2010).

In 2010, to determine if sunflower was a viable crop for the production of biofuel, the City of Raleigh planted 27 acres of sunflowers at the same facility on effluent-irrigated lands. Through the processing of the seed, the City was able through a third party, Piedmont Biofuels, Inc. to produce 1,258 gallons of biodiesel. One important lesson was the unanticipated cost of crushing seed, and lack of available local processors and the transportation cost. The $100,000 requested from this grant was proposed to fill those fuel production gaps, allowing the development of vertically integrated biodiesel processing equipment that could clean, crush and process sunflower and/or soybean into biodiesel fuels on site.

The project goal was to have a self-sustained system set up to manufacture biodiesel fuel for Raleigh’s municipal fleet with feedstocks produced on site using Raleigh's existing farm equipment and infrastructure. We are pleased to report that through the proceeds of this grant and an additional $65,000 from the City of Raleigh’s Sustainability Fund, staff and additional funding from the Public Utilities Department, that included the purchase and the wrapping of a 46’ long trailer, Raleigh has completed the acquisition and has a fully operational Mobile Biofuel Processor. The total cost estimate excluding staff resources was $178,350.

Originally, the processor was envisioned to be in an existing building on the NRRRF. However, due to escalating costs for retrofitting a building with necessary utilities, access and safety measures, a decision was made to look at the possibility of a mobile processor. In a quick review and research, the city discovered that a mobile, trailer mounted processor was completed by Polk County Schools by a company located in Seagrove N.C, New Earth Fabricators Inc. The City, through a competitive bid process, awarded New Earth Fabricators a contract for the design, fabrication and necessary training for a mobile processor. In collaboration with New Earth Fabricators, the City determined that a tractor trailer would be the size needed to self-contain the processor. The City located and purchased a used 46’ long tractor trailer. The decision to install the processing equipment in its entirety in the trailer affords the opportunity to not only produce on-site in any location, but to demonstrate the processor at other locations for educational purposes. The City also designed a custom “wrap” of the trailer that notes the purpose of the trailer and the partnerships involved.

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