People in Havre Tuesday will be able to start buying home-grown fuel, with a downtown Havre fueling station selling a diesel product blended with Montana-made biodiesel.
Montana State University-Northern also is hosting a training session to show local diesel technicians what to expect from engines using the blend.
A celebration kickoff is set for noon Tuesday at the Cenex Cardtrol station at 33 1st Street, with celebrants including the owner of Ezzie’s Wholesale Inc., that operates the station, members of the National Biodiesel Board and the owners and founders of Earl Fisher Biofuels of Chester, which is making the biodiesel.
Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., said this morning that the local sale takes the project beyond the research stage.
“It’s gone beyond theoretical to a success story, ” Tuss said.
Day Soriano of Opportunity Link Inc., said the sale of the biodiesel is a landmark achievement, both for commercial sale of biodiesel at a refueling station on the Hi-Line and for the sale of Montana-made biodiesel anywhere in the state.
“This would be the first, ” said Soriano, whose husband, Jon Soriano, is the lead researcher at Northern’s Bio-Energy Center.
The sale of the biodiesel is the continuation of a major partnership that grew out of testing Montana biodiesel in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway locomotives. The announcements of the results of that study still are pending.
Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, Opportunity Link, Northern’s Students in Free Enterprise and the Bio-Energy Center, are among the partners working with Earl Fisher Biofuels and Ezzie’s Wholesale in making the project a reality.
The partnership includes SIFE conducting the marketing and education, and the Bio-Energy Center testing and certifying the biodiesel in its state-of-the-art testing research center.
Soriano said Opportunity Link is purchasing the biodiesel from Earl Fisher to be blended with the petro-diesel. Ezzie’s then will sell the product, taking the amount of the sale from the petro-diesel while the amount coming from the biodiesel will go into a revolving fund that will then be used to purchase more biodiesel.
Soriano said the intent is to be able to extend the program in perpetuity, depending on the cost of biodiesel.
“It should last for years, ” she said.
The blend, B5, does not classify the fuel as a renewable fuel, but rather as a petroleum fuel with an additive. That means it will have no impact on manufacturers’ warranties, which can restrict the amount of biodiesel that can be used in a vehicle.
The training being held at Northern Tuesday — SIFE adviser Lanny Wilke said more than 30 local diesel technicians have registered for the training — will focus on the impacts of using biodiesel.
Greg Lyon, technician at the Bio-Energy Center, said the training will be conducted by representatives of the National Biodiesel Board, who also will be at the grand opening at the cardtrol station.
The training will include more accurately diagnosing the root cause of problems, both with biodiesel and petrodiesel; advising customers and fellow technicians about the true impacts of using biodiesel and biodiesel blends; and will give ASE certification to the technicians completing the training.
“They will give them a background, ” Lyon said. “Some people don’t even know what biodiesel is. ”
Lyon said coupling the training with the start of selling could resolve some concerns and problems. Sometimes, he said, people start using biodiesel and biodiesel blends and assume any problems that their vehicle has comes from the changeover, when it may be a completely different issue. The training is intended to teach technicians what to expect and what to look for.
“We’re not saying there will be problems, but there may be, and this is a good time (to get the training out), ” Lyon said.
Tuss said the sale of the biodiesel is a definite victory in terms of economic development.
“Sometimes the missing link in what we do is commercializing the product, and that’s exactly what step Ezzie’s Wholesale is taking, ” he said. “They’re putting a product that has been researched, it’s been studied, and we’re able to take that product, and that product is going to end up in the tanks of diesel users all over northern Montana.
“This is clearly a success story, ” Tuss added.