Biodiesel Plant at Full Production Thanks to Fed Guarantee

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

The relatively small plant, tucked away in an industrial park in Bangor, west of Kalamazoo, represents a revolution in energy production.

Soybean oil from Michigan farms goes in, and out comes 100 percent biodiesel. It's a clean-burning fuel suitable for use in any car with a diesel engine and many trucks. It can even be used to make home heating oil.

"It's a green project," plant investor and Stockbridge farmer Neal Conway said.

Now is the moment investors like Conway have been waiting for. The Michigan BioDiesel LLC plant is at full production thanks to a $3 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"It will allow farm families and operations to continue to expand and have crops that there's a value for," said Gene DeRossett, the USDA's Rural Development Director for Michigan.

Despite all the production happening in Bangor and in Gladstone in the Upper Peninsula, biodiesel is still a relatively small part of the diesel fuel used in the state.

"There's 1.3 billion gallons of diesel fuel used in Michigan and we're producing 10 million gallons," Michigan BioDiesel LLC CEO John Oakley said. "It's a microscopic drop on the end of an eye dropper."

But it's a drop that could grow to at least a trickle, thanks to the way the plant is built -- and the variety of sources for biodiesel itself.

"Chicken fat, restaurant grease. We can use coconut oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, corn oil," Oakley said.

A flexibility designed eventually to draw down dependence on foreign oil -- and boost demand for the products made by Michigan farmers.

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