Iowa Public Television


Farm eyeing chicken fat fuel

posted on May 11, 2007

ADAMSTOWN, Md. (AP) - Instead of spending $20,000 for a storage tanker for their pilot biodiesel refinery farm, Thompson Butz and his three brothers found a used tanker on e-Bay for $1,000 and drove to Massachusetts to retrieve it. A pressure tank was recovered from a dry-cleaning shop, an old propane tank was torched and soldered to a larger tank, and a used, 15 pound-capacity steel beer container is linked to larger tanks where a proprietary blend of chemicals are mixed. Chesapeake Green Fuels' chemical engineer Eric Franzoi said the refinery plant may not look like a fancy lab, but it gets the job done. The plant is at the family's Wind Ridge Farm. "We think it's pretty cutting edge," Franzoi said. Shoestring thinking is at the core of Chesapeake Green Fuels LLC - a start-up company working to develop and manufacture biodiesel and the equipment used to create biodiesel.

Biodiesel, derived from soybean or rapeseed oils, animal fats, waste vegetable oils or microalgae oils, can be blended with conventional diesel fuel or used as a 100 percent fuel by itself. Chesapeake Green Fuels uses chicken fat.

After two years of research and development, the company is capable of producing pure B-100 biodiesel on a commercial level, said Butz, one of the company's founders.

Chesapeake Green Fuels' pilot refinery farm is licensed only to do research and development and produce biodiesel fuel for its own consumption. Wind Ridge Farm buildings are heated by the biodiesel the company produces.

"We've processed the chicken fat so it exceeds the new ultra-low diesel standards," Butz said. "We're well on our way to crafting our commercialization plan," which is expected to be up and running in about 11 years.

Butz said the company took on a partner, The Petroleum Marketing Group, that will help finance and then buy all of Chesapeake Green Fuels' production for distribution through its 150 regional diesel stations.

The brothers who founded the company are farmers, first and foremost, Butz said. Across 1,000 acres, Wind Ridge Farm produces row crops, including corn and non-genetically modified soybean, which is sold to tofu producers and farmers.

Soy is not as profitable as using chicken fat for manufacturing biodiesel, Butz said.

High corn prices and temporary government subsidies, along with other entrepreneurs' rush to use the bean to develop biodiesel makes using soy unprofitable. A gallon of soy costs about a half dollar more than a gallon of diesel fuel.

"How do you make money? If government subsidy goes away, everybody's out of business," Butz said. "We've been very fortunate. The state is excited about biodiesel."

In August 2006, Chesapeake Green Fuels was one of seven start-up companies to receive $74,987 each from The Maryland Technology Development Corp. The company received an earlier state grant to build its refinery off Cap Stine Road.

Jeremy Butz, a Chesapeake Green Fuels mechanical engineer, said people should understand the company produces the cleanest biodiesel.

"It's renewable and it's not depleting our natural resources," Butz said. "We can perpetuate this growth to meet future demands this country has for fuel and for our national security. President Bush got it right when he said we have to curb this oil addiction."

It also creates greater value for the crops produced by the American farmer and develops a new and dynamic industry that will continue its charge to produce fuels that are clean and efficient, Tom Butz said.

To critics, he said the pursuit of alternative fuels is another example of technological vision in action.

"New endeavors and societal benefits come from people with vision who are willing to work and take risks," Butz said. "Without that visionary spirit, we would never have gone into space, built an airplane or make continuous improvements to the human condition. There will always be those who fear change and exploring the unknown."

Tags: agriculture animals biofuels chickens livestock news renewable fuels