By Kathy Coatney
An Arkansas professor has been experimenting with a farm-sized biodiesel plant that can use animal fat, waste oil or oilseeds.
Kevin Humphrey's system is not elaborate and he says it has a reasonably short pay-off.
The Arkansas State University researcher Humphrey sees real potential for ranchers with oil seed crops, waste oil or tallow to produce their own biodiesel. They could do it individually or as a group, pooling their resources to create a small biodiesel system, he says.
"If all you want to do is extract oil and meal, you can do that. If you want to extract and produce meal and then also produce biodiesel, you can do that," he says.
Humphrey is using waste oil and oil seed crops -- soybeans, canola, and camelina -- to make biodiesel. He adds he hasn't used animal fats but that is a viable option.
The equipment Humphrey is using produces about 32,000 gallons of biodiesel per year.
Biopro processors from Springboard Biodiesel in Chico, California, makes Humphrey's biodiesel. The Biopro processors come in three different sizes, 40-, 50- and 100-gallon processors. They range in price from $7,350 to $19,995.
Humphrey estimates about a $100,000 equipment investment for oil removal from the seed, including a mill to process the meal and the biodiesel processor. The payback can be relatively short, he says.
Matt Roberts, vice president of marketing for Springboard Biodiesel, says if the oil is collected free, as might be beef tallow from rendering, the biodiesel will cost about 95 cents per gallon to make. That price includes the cost of the chemicals to make the biodiesel -- methanol, lye, and sulfuric acid.
The resulting biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine without needing to convert the engine.
Humphrey has worked a lot with soybeans because they are available. He says he will soon begin working with cottonseed.
Crushing the seed to produce the oil creates a lot of meal that Humphrey grinds up for soybean meal. He's produced about eight tons of soybean meal within the last semester and a half, he says.
The meal is fed to the livestock on the campus farm, which provides dual usage from the seed crop.