EPAC biodiesel workshop showcases technology center

By Erin Voegele | August 08, 2008
A class hosted by Ethanol Producers and Consumers, a Montana-based organization that offers informational resources on biofuels, educated attendees about how biodiesel is produced, certified and used June 10. The event, titled "Biodiesel in Montana: Learn the Answers," was held at Montana State University-Northern's Applied Technology Center in Havre, Mont.

Approximately 30 people attended the class and toured MSU-Northern's ASTM Bio-Diesel Certification Lab at the university's Bio-Energy Innovation and Testing Center to learn how products are tested for performance and safety.

The lab, which celebrated its grand opening in March, is equipped to handle biodiesel testing for both commercial-scale and hobbyist producers. The center also features a performance lab capable of testing diesel engines ranging from small two-stoke engines up to 1,000 horsepower engines. "One of our major research activities right now is improving the cold-flow properties of biodiesel," said Jon Soriano, a research scientist who oversees the lab. "We're thinking of developing a new additive for biodiesel to improve its oxidation ability and cold-flow properties."

Attendees also heard a panel of representatives from local Ford and Chevrolet dealerships, and the local John Deere implement discuss vehicle and equipment warrantees, flexible-fuel and hybrid engines, and offer suggestions on what to look for in a new vehicle. A representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., spoke about the state's renewable fuel standard program, and Brett Earl and Logan Fisher, owners of a local biodiesel production facility, shared their experiences with attendees. The availability of biodiesel in Montana was also addressed. There are currently no commercial-scale production facilities located in the state.

"I think it's important to understand that [EPAC] was initiated with an emphasis on ethanol," said EPAC spokeswoman Pam Dzick. "Now, as biofuels diversify, we will be exploring
those opportunities, as well." EPAC sponsors similar workshops throughout the year. The next class, titled "All Things Considered: The Pros and Cons of Biofuels," is scheduled be held at three Montana locations Oct. 7-9.
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