For Biodiesel, Michigan Grows Its Own

In a region that has lost a lot of industry to foreign manufacturers, OnSite Energy and Michigan State University Extension are working to bring the fuel industry local and make it green. Based in Flint, Mich., OnSite Energy partnered with Michigan State University Extension on their Freeway to Fuels project, which seeks to use land around Michigan’s freeways and airports as well as vacant urban lots to grow and harvest bioenergy crops, generating economic activity and jobs for the region.

Using three years of collaborative research on the Michigan agricultural market, OnSite Energy developed a fully automated biodiesel fuel processor, which Michigan State University Extension purchased to demonstrate and teach farmers how to make their own biodiesel fuel. The portable unit squeezes oil from soybean, canola and other oil crops seed, pumps the oil into the biodiesel unit and adds conversion chemicals that process the oil into biodiesel.

OnSite Biodiesel

image via OnSite Energy

These portable processors range in price from $10,000 to $42,000 and produce 40- to 400-gallon batches of biodiesel fuel in eight hours. With glycerin the only by-product, biodiesel stands to be an affordable alternative to petro diesel, especially since diesel engines can run on biodiesel without any alterations.

“Making fuel on site allows for long-term fuel price stabilization, up to $1.00 per gallon in savings as well as supports local industry,” OnSite Energy CEO Michael Witt said in a statement. “We are all about local economies and getting the most out of Michigan’s resources. Michigan is primed for success with biodiesel fuel on a local scalable level. By switching to biodiesel fuel Michigan can reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, stop the massive importing of foreign fuel and keep the money local.”

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies

  • Khaendiges

    Biodiesel cannot be used diretly in an unconverted engine, all rubber parts have to be replaced with vinyl or other synthetics to avoid being eaten by the biodiesel fuel. This is common knowledge among those who make biodiesel. Bio is also unusable in temperatures under 40 degrees due to gelling unless it’s mixed with 85% high grade petro diesel, so much for cost savings. There’s also the matter of the EPA permit to make it, the stultifying record keeping and regulations to comply with, no farmer has the time for this.