By Tim Leeds 

Northern shows off biodiesel plant


Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson, file photo

MSU-Northern Bio-Energy Center researcher Jon Soriano, from right, works with then Havre High School seniors Brett Normandy and Kent Pattison in the Applied Technology Center's Quality Control Lab during the HHS automotive technology class' visit to the campus in January 2010.

People who would like to know more about biodiesel — and make it themselves on their farm, on their ranch or in their back yard — can do just that with the "Get Off Your Gas" event set at Montana State University-Northern the end of next week.

Taylor Lyon, research assistant at the university's Bio-Energy Center, said the event is open to both university students and anyone else who wants to attend.

"It's basically to expose them to the concept, the practice and the feasibility of making fuel, " he said. "This isn't an elite activity. Today, it's open to everybody. "

The event runs in the biodiesel pilot plant, just east of the Applied Technology Center, from 1 to 4 p. m. Thursday and 9 a. m. to noon next Friday. It is free for Northern students, and costs $10 for others.

Lyon said the event will show how to make biodiesel from used cooking oil. Oil from the university cafeteria will be used.

The people at the production event will be shown how to test the product using techniques they can use on their own, right where they produce the fuel.

Lyon said the event essentially is moving on from the first set of outreach seminars, The ABCs of Biodiesel, which was done in the laboratory.

"This event will be focused on real life, " he said, showing how people can make the fuel on their own, and how virtually anyone can do so.

"There is this general feeling that this is an elite activity, " Lyon said.

Lyon quoted the poster advertising the event about who may want to attend: "Whether you're tired of high fuel prices, you love hugging trees, or are just looking for a way to be more patriotic, join us in discovering the satisfaction of making your very own Montana fuel. "

The demand for biodiesel is growing, but little is being produced in state, he said.

"The demand for biodiesel in the state is over 1 million gallons, " he said. "The majority of that is shipped in from out of state. "

The event at Northern comes as an increased focus on biodiesel is occuring across the state and across the nation.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a program to help subsidize farmers starting to raise camelina, a source of renewable fuel such as biodiesel and jet fuel that grows well in north-central Montana.

North Central Montana Transit has been running buses on blends of petroleum diesel and biodiesel produced at northern, and tests using biodiesel in a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway switch engine in the Havre yards is close to completion.

For more information or to register for the "Get Off Your Gas" event at Northern, people can contact Lyon at 262-5923 or via email at taylor. [email protected]


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