Big trouble on the horizon spurs a biofuels initiative
October 2, 2006
Carlo Luri, general manager of Bently Biofuels, tells of the day in 2002 when Don Bently met him in the company lunchroom and said, “We’re going to have big trouble.”
As a new hire, Luri wasn’t happy to hear that. But it turned into an opportunity to make operations more cost efficient when Bently continued, “Oil is going to go up to $100 a barrel.”
Luri, who studied chemical engineering at Cornell in New York and environmental science at Rutgers in New Jersey, concludes the story: “Here we are four years later and we’ve got a working biodiesel plant.”
The fuel is used on the ranch to run farm machinery and to transport cattle.
Most biodiesel fuel is made from soybean oil, says Luri. “Here, we make it from used soybean oil. After restaurants are done cooking with it, we bring it back here and make it into fuel.”
The company picks up some oil from local restaurants, for which it pays 40 cents a gallon. Previously, restaurants had to pay to have it hauled away. But not enough cooking oil is generated locally, so the company also uses a collection service.
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The fuel is created when methanol and vegetable oil combine and react to create methylester the chemical name for biodiesel.
A heavier solid byproduct, glycerin, drops out. And naturally, that gets composted.
The ranch even has its own filling station where local residents are welcome to fill up. The company sells about one-third of its total production; the rest is used on its own property.
Luri lists the benefits of biofuels: It’s nontoxic and biodegradeable. It’s safe to store and won’t ignite until 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It has fewer emissions than does gasoline. It’s low in sulfur, which causes acid rain.
“Seed oils are both renewable and recyclable,” says Luri. “It’s a resource that can be grown anywhere in the world. Any country, no matter how poor, can grow its fuel.”