Despite a sharp drop in the temperature outside, the environment was warm at a special celebration in Havre Tuesday as the first sales of locally produced fuel began.
“There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of research going into actually practicing what we preach, and today we’re going to practice what we preach by filling up the North Central Montana Transit buses, ” said Taylor Lyon, technician at the Bio-Energy Center at Montana State University-Northern.
The ceremony began after North Central Montana Transit buses brought local diesel technicians from special training, dealing with biodiesel, at the university. Lanny Wilke, adviser of Students in Free Enterprise at Northern, the group that supervised the training and is promoting Ezzie’s sale of biodiesel, said 60 or more technicians ended up coming to the training.
The kickoff ceremony was in celebration of Ezzie’s Wholesale beginning to sell a B5 blend — petro-diesel mixed with 5 percent biodiesel — at its Cenex cardlock station in downtown Havre. One pump at the station, which sells only with credit card use, offers both on-road and dyed off-road diesel with the blend, using biodiesel made from locally grown camelina at Earl Fisher Biofuels in Chester.
The project is a partnership between Earl Fisher, the research and testing center at Northern, Opportunity Link Inc., Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Ezzie’s.
Ezzie’s will take the 95 percent of each sale at the pump coming from the diesel, while the 5 percent from biodiesel will go to Opportunity Link, for the future purchase of more biodiesel to be sold in the project.
Lary Poulton, owner of Ezzie’s, said during the ceremony that Greg Kegel, dean of the College of Technical Sciences at Montana State University-Northern, had been “beating on me for the last two or three years to get something done, and we finally had a facility where something would work. ”
After thanking the partners in the project, Poulton added, “We’re just glad to be a part of it. We think it’s great for the college, for agriculture and for northern Montana. ”
Brett Earl, whose business partner, Logan Fisher, filled up his truck at the pump before the ceremony, thanked all of the project partners who all were represented at the ceremony, starting with Bear Paw Development Corp.
“They were with us from the beginning, ” he said, adding that that began when he and Fisher wrote their first business plan six years ago.
He also thanked Day Soriano and Barb Stiffarm from Opportunity Link, who he said put the retail sale project together; Brian Spengler and Howard Haines of DEQ, also involved from the beginning; and lead researcher Jon Soriano and his staff at the Bio-Energy Center.
“To get a... distributor the size of Ezzie’s to start selling biodiesel at the pump, it’s outstanding, and we’re very excited, ” Earl said, adding, “Without that whole team we wouldn’t be standing here, and we wouldn’t be where we are today; so don’t thank us, thank them. ”
Rachel Burton, manager of the National Biodiesel Board’s diesel technician training program, who was conducting training sessions at Northern during the workshop, said during the celebration that she was excited to be in Havre for the pump’s opening sales.
The project brings together the farmers, biodiesel producers, retail distributors and the training and testing center, Burton said.
“I think this is a great marriage of all the different resources that you have here. … I’m proud of you guys for working together, ” she said.
Northern Chancellor Jim Limbaugh thanked the members of the partnership and of the public for the faith they have put in Northern during its research.
“It’s so exciting for me to be here in this particular time in the history of Montana and the university, and so, on behalf of the entire university, thank you. Thank you all very much. Let’s fill up a bus, ” Limbaugh said.