Developing Community Based Oilseed Industry in Montana

Final Report for OW11-326

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2011: $49,830.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Taylor Lyon
Bio-Energy Center
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Nestor Soriano, Jr.
Lead Research Scientist
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Project Information

Abstract:

The intent of this project was to demonstrate how biodiesel and straight vegetable oil (svo) can be economically viable sources of energy for agricultural operations by way of adding value to safflower and canola oilseeds. Originally, six north-central Montana farmers were contracted by the Bio-Energy Center at Montana State University-Northern (BEC) to grow 130,000 lbs of combined canola and safflower oilseeds on a total 165 acres. This was estimated to produce 5,645 gallons of culinary grade vegetable oil destined to be sold to regional restaurant establishments as fryer oil, and 97,000 lbs of high protein oilseed meal destined as livestock feed. Once the culinary oil was exhausted and recycled, it would produce an estimated 3,120 gallons of combined biodiesel and svo to be returned to the farmers who grew the oilseeds. This amount would represent a ten percent displacement of the farmer’s petroleum diesel fuel use.

The project was initially designed to model a cooperative type business structure, where the BEC would provide the facilities and equipment for all oilseed crushing, culinary oil packaging, and biodiesel and svo production activities. The contracted farmers would serve as the producing members of the theoretical co-op with the strict role of growing the oilseeds and using the biodiesel in their farming equipment.

However, as the project progressed, a key opportunity steered the project in a different, but unique, beneficial and eventually successful direction. The opportunity presented itself in the form of a business venture being pursued by one of the project partners, Dr. Bob Quinn of Quinn Farm & Ranch (QFR). Dr. Quinn was, independently of this project, crushing safflower oilseed on his farm, refining it into culinary oil and leasing the oil to local restaurants for use in their fryers. Once the oil was exhausted, Dr. Quinn then collected and filtered the oil for use as fuel for Quinn Farm and Ranch farming equipment. Consequently a partnership was created between the BEC and The Oil Barn, the newly created business venture of Dr. Quinn. The Oil Barn was contracted to carry out a portion of project activities, including crushing the entirety of safflower contracted by the BEC with QFR, processing and delivering culinary grade safflower vegetable oil and refining the exhausted fryer oil into svo for use in QFR farming equipment.

Unfortunately, because The Oil Barn is a certified organic processor and located on the grounds of QFR, an organic farm, The Oil Barn was not willing to accept and process the genetically modified canola (Round-Up Ready Canola) that was contracted through this project. Therefore, the only oilseed used in this project was safflower and the number of farmers contracted was reduced from six contracts (three canola contracts and three safflower contracts) to just three safflower contracts.

Partnership with The Oil Barn allowed the project to model real-world economics and increased the number of entities exposed to the project’s two main products, culinary grade safflower oil and biodiesel. In addition to the restaurants/organizations using safflower oil processed by the BEC, The Oil Barn was able to engage an additional three restaurants/organizations, one being the University of Montana in Missoula via UM’s Farm-to-College program. This not only greatly expanded the number of people using safflower cooking oil, but it significantly increased the geographic scope of the project.

In addition to The Oil Barn securing a regional demand for safflower cooking oil, they also secured a market for safflower oilseed meal. All meal produced through the project was sold to Golden Harvest Seeds, a local (within 15 miles) swine and cattle operation. Oilseed meal generated at the BEC was distributed to local cattle research operations, cattle feedlots or hobby farmers for goat feed and/or as a soil amendment.

Introduction

Despite the growth in Montana’s biodiesel use, there remains only one commercial biodiesel producer in the entire state and a handful of backyard producers. In fact, more than 90% of biodiesel consumed in Montana is produced outside the state. The relatively higher cost of biodiesel in Montana is primarily attributed to feedstock availability and cost, transportation, public acceptance, and lack of technical support to farmers on oilseed pressing and biodiesel production. This project aimed to develop a closed loop, community-based oilseed industry to promote the local production and use of biodiesel in Montana. The Bio-Energy Center (BEC) partnered with The Oil Barn and three local producers of safflower oilseed. The safflower seed was processed into culinary vegetable oil at both The Oil Barn and the BEC and “leased” to a total of nine dining establishments throughout north-central and western Montana. Upon exhaustion of culinary oil, it was collected and pre-treated and processed into biodiesel or straight vegetable oil (svo) to be used as an alternative fuel. The fuel was then distributed back to the growers of the safflower oilseed, thus completing the loop. Prior to this project, safflower grown in Montana was destined to be birdfeed or to be processed into culinary oil outside the state. The public-private partnership between The Oil Barn and the BEC exhibited how safflower does not need to leave the state as a commodity, but rather can be processed into a value-added agricultural product that is good for humans, the land and the environment.

Project Objectives:

1. Model a community-based oilseed industry that will include culinary, waste oil, biodiesel, meal and possibly glycerin generated from biodiesel production.

2. Contract a total of 165 acres of canola and safflower distributed amongst four (4) conventional oilseed producers and two (2) certified organic oilseed producers at 15 – 38 acres per producer.

3. Press and process 76,305 lbs of non-organic oilseed and 53,333 lbs of certified organic oilseed (canola and safflower) into culinary grade oil, using minimal chemical treatment.

4. Promote local markets for culinary oil and certified organic oil in Montana by supplying the culinary oil needs of three (3) food services and restaurants in Havre totaling to 3,250 gallons of oil.

5. Develop strategies for marketing Montana-made culinary oils through undergraduate projects.

6. Promote local meal markets in Montana totaling 40,000 lbs of organic and 57,228 lbs of non-organic meal in feed and fertilizer applications.

7. Demonstrate the logistics involved in collecting waste oil from local food services and restaurants.

8. Investigate the appropriate pre-treatment of waste oil to make it suitable as a straight fuel and for biodiesel production.

9. Produce a total of 2,807 gallons of biodiesel at MSU-Northern’s Biodiesel Pilot Plant.

10. Pilot the local distribution of svo and biodiesel totaling 3,407 gallons to six (6) local farms for their agricultural operations that will meet 10% of each farm’s total diesel fuel consumption.

11. Conduct a feasibility study on the economics of community-based oilseed industry that will encompass culinary, waste oil, biodiesel, meal and possibly glycerin generated from biodiesel processing.

12. Increase public awareness of a closed loop food and energy production by integrating this project with Alternative Energy Resources Organization’s (AERO) farm and energy tours.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Doug Crabtree
  • Andrew Long
  • Andrew Long
  • Bob Quinn
  • Dr. Nestor Soriano, Jr.
  • Leonard Stone

Research

Materials and methods:

1. Model a community-based oilseed industry that will include culinary, waste oil, biodiesel, meal and possibly glycerin generated from biodiesel production. Although not originally intended, The Bio-Energy Center (BEC) and The Oil Barn partnered to carry out the logistics of this project. The partnership allowed for the BEC to devote more resources to the research end of the project, such as pre-treatment of culinary oil, refining methods for straight vegetable oil fuel (svo) and biodiesel, and research and sourcing of vendors for various project needs like carboys, equipment and chemicals. The Oil Barn, in turn, could focus on carrying out the bulk of production logistics, such as receiving and processing seed into culinary oil, distribution of fresh oil and collection of waste vegetable oil (wvo), and sourcing of additional seed when growing conditions were poor. Additionally, The Oil Barn was an essential resource for gathering “live” economic data and was subject to realistic market conditions and obstacles; it is sometimes difficult for research institutions to fully capture real world conditions. Most importantly, however, was that SARE funds used to purchase seed from Quinn Farm and Ranch for the project were then invested into The Oil Barn to purchase equipment necessary to produce high quality safflower cooking oil.

2. Contract a total of 165 acres of canola and safflower distributed amongst four (4) conventional oilseed producers and two (2) certified organic oilseed producers at 15 – 38 acres per producer. Producers were contacted via phone or personal communication. The amended project included just three oilseed producers, two of which were organic and one was conventional. Unfortunately the canola producers were disqualified due to the canola being genetically modified (Round-Up Ready). Organic safflower contracts totaled to 48.3 tons at $0.26 per pound. Conventional safflower contracts totaled to 5.9 tons at $0.22 per pound. (Documents 1,2,3,4,21).

3. Press and process 76,305 lbs of non-organic oilseed and 53,333 lbs of certified organic oilseed (canola and safflower) into culinary grade oil, using minimal chemical treatment. The Oil Barn used four Monfort screw presses and one Monfort filter press to process their oilseed into culinary grade oil. The seed was stored outside in two 500 bushel (safflower is 38 lbs per bushel) standard flat bottom grain bins, brought into an intermediary hopper via an automatically triggered flex auger, and then fed into the screw presses. The resulting oil was fed into a chute where it remained in an agitation tank. Once the tank was full, the agitated oil slurry was sent through the filter press. Upon exiting the filter press, the oil was manually loaded into 35 pound carboys where it remained until delivered. The meal was carted away and stored in 1-ton tote sacks where it awaited delivery. Note: The only “treatment” of the oil is filtering. (Document 12,22-28) Unlike The Oil Barn, the BEC experimented with different pre-treatments of safflower oil. The BEC used two Kern Kraft KK40 screw presses and a Kern Kraft KKF470 filter press. Pre-treatment of the oil involved a “bleaching” process where the oil was exposed to earthen clay. The clay was produced by Oil-Dri Corporation and its identity is PURE-FLO B-80 Bleaching Clay. Its chemical composition is fullers earth and/or Bentonite (montmorillonite type) clay. The bleaching tank was a fifteen gallon stainless steel tank with a dynamix agitator and heating band. After oil was extruded from the press, it was fed into the fifteen gallon stainless steel bleaching tank. Once tank was full, oil was treated with 1% by weight of B80 clay for 20 minutes at 120 degrees F. After bleaching, oil was pumped through the Kern Kraft filter press and up to a bulk holding tank where the oil remained until gravity loaded into carboys (Documents 5,13,14,15,17,20,23).

4. Promote local markets for culinary oil and certified organic oil in Montana by supplying the culinary oil needs of three (3) food services and restaurants in Havre totaling to 3,250 gallons of oil. The Oil Barn promoted organic oil markets in Big Sandy, Loma and Missoula, MT by supplying organic safflower oil to restaurants in all three towns. The primary market, however, was the University of Montana in Missoula, MT. The Oil Barn delivered oil to UM once per month, which was distributed to six different kitchens/restaurants within UM’s dining services. Oil was delivered in 35 pound plastic carboys (Document 11). The BEC promoted culinary oil markets in Havre by supplying safflower cooking oil to six different restaurants/entities: MSU-Northern’s Dining Service, Guadalajaras Mexican Restaurant, Uncle Joes Steakhouse, China Garden, Murphy’s Bar and Grill and the Lion’s Club for use as a fryer oil at the Great Northern Fair in Havre. The BEC delivered oil at least once per month or upon customer’s request. The oil was delivered in 35 pound plastic carboys encased in cardboard sourced from J.F. Shelton Company of Portland, OR. (Document 10).

5. Develop strategies for marketing Montana-made culinary oils through undergraduate projects. The Oil Barn marketed their brand of cooking oil to the University of Montana via UM’s Farm-to-College program. This program “brings fresh, locally grown and processed food to campus through direct relationships with local farmers, ranchers, and businesses” (Farm to College). The Oil Barn also created their own logo, tri-fold brochure and other marketing tools to establish their brand (marketing for The Oil Barn was not funded through SARE, however, The Oil Barn was contracted by the BEC to sell cooking oil for this project and, thus, The Oil Barn’s efforts to market their brand directly affected the outcomes of this project). The BEC partnered with MSU-Northern’s Advanced Marketing Applications class to devise several marketing strategies to introduce locally produced safflower cooking oil into the market.

6. Promote local meal markets in Montana totaling 40,000 lbs of organic and 57,228 lbs of non-organic meal in feed and fertilizer applications. The Oil Barn contacted and arranged to sell all their oilseed meal to Golden Harvest Seeds in Big Sandy. The meal comes out of the oilseed crusher as a 12-13 millimeter wide by 6” long pellet, on average. It dropped into a receptacle, which when became full, was loaded into 1-ton tote sacks and delivered by truck to Golden Harvest Seeds. The BEC distributed safflower meal to the Montana State University Northern Agricultural Research Center for use in their cattle feed lot. It was also distributed to a local bull cattle breeder for use as a feed ration and to local hobby farmers and gardeners for use as goat feed and as a soil amendment, respectively.

7. Demonstrate the logistics involved in collecting waste oil from local food services and restaurants. The Oil Barn collected waste vegetable oil (wvo) from the University of Montana at the same time it delivered fresh safflower oil to the University, thereby minimizing transportation inefficiencies. The Oil Barn instructed UM Dining Services to place the wvo into the thirty-five pound carboys that the fresh oil was delivered in, thereby eliminating the need for a large grease bin. The Oil Barn used a 3/4 ton pickup truck and made deliveries of fresh oil/pick-up of wvo once per month. The BEC followed suit and collected wvo at the same time as fresh safflower oil delivery. Guadalarajas restaurant stored their wvo containers inside and MSU-N dining services stored their containers inside. The Lion’s Club stored their wvo outside after completion of the Great Northern Fair.

8. Investigate the appropriate pre-treatment of waste oil to make it suitable as a straight fuel and for biodiesel production. Quinn Farm and Ranch purchased a custom manufactured, proprietary system to “refine” incoming wvo from The Oil Barn to make it suitable as svo in their farm equipment. All that can be said about the refining unit is that it contained heat, a centrifuge and filters (Contact Quinn Farm and Ranch for more details). The BEC employed several different methods to refine wvo for use as both svo-for-fuel and a as a feedstock for biodiesel production. To prepare the incoming wvo for biodiesel, the BEC screened wvo by manually pouring the oil through window screening attached to a 55 gallon barrel. From there the oil was pumped up to an elevated 55 gallon barrel. Next the oil flowed via gravity into a WVO Designs Centrifuge. The centrifuge is designed to spin at 6,000 rpm and is equipped with a heater to heat the incoming oil before it enters the centrifuge. After the oil leaves the centrifuge, it is tested for water and free fatty acid content before being made into biodiesel (Documents 18 & 19). To prepare the incoming wvo for use as svo, the BEC’s preferred method was to pre-screen the oil (as described above) and send it through a Kern Kraft Chamber Filter press (Document 5). However, because this filter press can be cost prohibitive, the BEC used a Size 2 (7” x 32”) Polypropylene positive seal 1 micron absolute sock-type filter and associated aluminum filter-housing and pumped the oil through the filter with a pneumatic diaphragm style pump (Documents 6 & 7).

9. Produce a total of 2,807 gallons of biodiesel at MSU-Northern’s Biodiesel Pilot Plant. To produce biodiesel, the BEC employed the use of its Biodiesel Pilot Plant (bpp). The bpp can produce 50 gallons of ASTM grade biodiesel in 24 hours via traditional batch process, base-catalyzed transesterification using methanol and potassium hydroxide. The feedstock for the biodiesel was centrifuged wvo with moisture levels not exceeding 0.05% and free fatty acid content not higher than 5%. The biodiesel was stored outside in a cone-bottomed, vented, mild-steel tank (Document 8).

10. Pilot the local distribution of SVO and biodiesel totaling 3,407 gallons to six (6) local farms for their agricultural operations that will meet 10% of each farm’s total diesel fuel consumption. The Oil Barn collected and refined their own svo. Wvo was collected by The Oil Barn and unloaded on site at Quinn Farm and Ranch. Once the wvo was refined into svo fuel, it remained in a 250 gallon plastic tote in a warehouse. It was distributed on site to farm equipment. The BEC only distributed bniodiesel to Vilicus Farms, as LMS Grain retired before production of biodiesel was complete. Therefore, biodiesel that was designated to go to LMS Grain went to Vilicus Farms. B100 biodiesel was loaded into an auxiliary fuel tank on the back of a service truck at arranged times when Vilicus Farms was in town. This was the most efficient (economic, time, labor) way to distribute biodiesel. Vilicus Farms was instructed to pick up B100 fuel when their on-farm fuel tank was approaching empty. After B100 was picked up at the BEC, it was brought back to the farm and unloaded into the near-empty fuel tank. Before fueling up any farming equipment, the local petroleum fuel distributor would bring a load of diesel to “top” off the tank. The violent agitation of diesel being unloaded on top of the biodiesel was a sufficient method for blending. The highest blend ratio was 20% biodiesel/ 80% diesel (B20). This was to preserve fuel lines and seals on older farming equipment (pre-1994).

11. Conduct a feasibility study on the economics of community-based oilseed industry that will encompass culinary, waste oil, biodiesel, meal and possibly glycerin generated from biodiesel processing. The BEC used actual economic data from The Oil Barn’s business venture. Although The Oil Barn is not a cooperative, it is still an operating and viable business venture carrying out the same mission as the proposed cooperative – to develop a community based oilseed industry in Montana.

12. Increase public awareness of a closed loop food and energy production by integrating this project with Alternative Energy Resources Organization’s (AERO) farm and energy tours. The BEC partnered with Kevin Moore of the Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) to organize and conduct a farm tour at Bob Quinn’s farm. BEC staff conducted a presentation and distributed informational flyers to educate tour participants on the details and potential outcomes of this project. Also incorporated into the farm tour was a survey inquiring on tour participants’ knowledge and interest in oilseeds and related matters (Documents 9 & 16).

Research results and discussion:

1. The most notable measure of success for this project was the creation and continuing operation of The Oil Barn, Big Sandy, Montana. The partnership created with The Oil Barn, through this project is what allowed for accurate, real-time modeling of a “community-based oilseed industry in Montana.” Although The Oil Barn is not a cooperative, as was intended by the original project proposal, it does operate based on principles similar to the original project’s intentions. The Oil Barn was responsible for processing safflower grown by Quinn Farm and Ranch and delivering culinary safflower oil to three different dining establishments in Big Sandy, Loma and Missoula, Montana. It also collected waste fryer oil and processed it for use as “straight vegetable oil” fuel on-site for Quinn Farm and Ranch. BEC was responsible for processing safflower grown by LMS Grain and Vilicus Farms and delivering culinary safflower oil to four different dining establishments in Havre, Montana. The BEC also collected fryer oil from these establishments and processed it into biodiesel, which was distributed solely to Vilicus Farms, as LMS Grain retired mid-project.

2. Two notable obstacles for this project were poor safflower yields and identifying which variety of safflower seed produced hi-oleic safflower oil. For the first growing season, LMS grain only produced twenty percent of its contracted amount, Vilicus Farms produced sixty percent of its contracted amount, but Quinn Farm and Ranch produced 100 percent of its contracted amount. During this growing season, The Oil Barn, to maintain a consistent and high quality product, would not accept and process seed from Vilicus Farms or LMS Grain due to an insufficient percentage of oleic acid content. Quinn Farm and Ranch however, did meet the minimum oleic content of seventy five percent. For the second growing season, only Quinn Farm and Ranch was contracted to grow safflower for The Oil Barn to process. Due to poor growing conditions, Quinn Farm and Ranch was not able to grow its contracted amount and The Oil Barn had to outsource safflower seed from Safflower Technologies Inc. in Fairview, Montana. Because Quinn Farm and Ranch was still able to produce safflower seed that met the minimum oleic acid percentage allowed by The Oil Barn during a poor growing season, it is not clear whether variety of seed, or poor growing conditions was to blame for the low oleic acid percentage exhibited by Vilicus Farms and LMS Grain’s safflower crop (Document 11).

3. The Oil Barn processed all of the safflower grown by Quinn Farm and Ranch. The BEC processed all of the safflower grown by LMS Grain and Vilicus Farms. For the project, the BEC and The Oil Barn processed a total of 90,921 lbs of safflower to to create 24,733 lbs of culinary safflower oil, or twenty seven percent by weight per pound of seed. The Oil Barn did not chemically alter or treat the safflower oil they processed. The only processing involved was physical filtration through a filter press and bottling (as referenced in Materials and Methods section). During sample trials of safflower oil sourced from Vilicus Farms and LMS Grain safflower seed, and processed by BEC, restaurants noted a stronger odor and reduced quality (lower smoke point) of oil as compared to safflower oil produced by The Oil Barn or compared to other commercially available cooking oils. It was suspected that the lower oleic content of the seed was the culprit for the oil’s inferior quality and additional odor. Therefore, as a solution, BEC experimented with earthen “bleaching” clay as a pre-treatment of the virgin safflower oil. The clay significantly lightened the color and taste of the oil and deemed it satisfactory for restaurant use. The clay (as referenced in Materials and Methods Section) was not charged with sulfuric acid or treated in any way. It was considered an all natural, minimally invasive method for processing culinary safflower oil. In addition, two undergraduate students completed research on the effectiveness of the bleaching process on culinary vegetable oils. (Documents 6,7,12).

4. The Oil Barn supplied the University of Montana Dining Services with 17,557 lbs, Ma’s Loma Café with 4,124 lbs, and Bear Paw Café with 582 lbs of organic culinary safflower oil. BEC supplied the BEC Dining Services with 1,148 lbs, Uncle Joes Steak House with 141 lbs, Guadalajaras with 494 lbs and the Lion’s Club with 387 lbs of culinary safflower oil. Total oil delivered was 24,733 lbs. All oil processed through BEC was treated with earthen clay. A fatty acid profile and nutritional analysis was completed through Nutridata to assure product quality and educate the restaurants of the health benefits of hi-oleic safflower culinary oil (Documents 2,3,12).

5. BEC partnered with the Advanced Marketing Applications class at MSU-Northern to compile various strategies for marketing culinary safflower oil. Strategies highlighted were: The use of table tents for in-restaurant advertising, the use of QR codes by smart-phone users, hosting event and sampling days at restaurants, the use of “fanminder-” a web based marketing tool, and free sample bottles (Document 10).

6. The Oil Barn and the BEC produced a total of 66,345 pounds of safflower oilseed meal. Golden Harvest Seeds of Big Sandy purchased all of the safflower oilseed meal generated from this project, and continues to purchase meal from The Oil Barn. It is primarily used as a swine and bovine feed supplement. The BEC distributed safflower oilseed meal generated at its facility to the Northern Agricultural Research Station to be included in its bovine feedlot trial studies, a local bull cattle producer, and to hobby farmers and ranchers for use as a soil amendment or goat feed, respectively. All parties who used the meal were satisfied with its performance. (Document 4).

7. The Oil Barn and the BEC collected a total of 11,000 lbs of waste vegetable oil. Both the BEC and The Oil Barn requested of the targeted restaurants that they place the waste fryer oil in the thirty five pound containers (carboys) that the fresh oil was delivered in. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method. The main advantage is that it eliminates any extra overhead or equipment costs associated with oil-collection receptacles. With large receptacles, the oil collector must have some sort of collection tank system that can suck/pump oil from the waste receptacle. In the winter, the collector must be able to heat the waste receptacle in order to “melt” the oil, or simply swap out the full container with an empty one. Some disadvantages noted were that restaurants prefer to have a separate receptacle located outside. Often times, draining fryers into the carboys is a messy job with a high potential for spills. To the contrary, disposing of fryer oil in receptacles is relatively easy and takes place outside. Also, the collection of oil in carboys means an added waste stream to the oil collector. Both The Oil Barn and the BEC noted the additional time and effort taken to dispose of the carboys. The recommended method of oil collection for this scale of operation is use of a “Tommy-Gate” hydraulic lift and exchange full 55 gallon steel barrels for empty ones. This allows for longer collection intervals. It also means that in the winter, the collector can thaw the oil at their base facility, given that it is heated. 8. There are many different ways to prepare waste fryer oil for use as straight vegetable oil (svo) fuel or as a feedstock for biodiesel. For svo fuel, the method preferred by the BEC was the filter press. This method produced the highest quality fuel in the most efficient manner. Although this is an expensive option, it significantly reduces user error, labor, energy, and time. Second to a filter press, is the use of the WVO Designs centrifuge coupled with a 1-micron bag filter (explained in Methods and Materials Section). This option is significantly less expensive, but does require more attention and time and consumes more electrical energy than the filter press. 9. The BEC produced 256 gallons of ASTM-grade biodiesel. All biodiesel produced at the BEC was sourced from recycled waste fryer oil that originated as culinary safflower oil produced at the BEC and given to the restaurants mentioned above. 10. All biodiesel produced through this project (220 gallons) went to Vilicus Farms, as Quinn Farm and Ranch was dedicated to using straight vegetable oil as fuel, and LMS Grain retired before biodiesel production was underway. Vilicus Farms picked up B100 biodiesel from the BEC’s facilities using a standard auxiliary diesel-fuel tank on a farm service truck. When the farm’s bulk diesel tank was approaching empty, the biodiesel was loaded into the bulk tank at the same time as a diesel fuel delivery, thereby ensuring sufficient levels of turbulence needed to achieve a homogenous blend of diesel and biodiesel. By waiting to load the biodiesel at the same time as diesel, into the bulk fuel tank, this significantly reduced the possibility for B100 biodiesel to become saturated with condensate in a near empty bulk fuel tank, as so often is the case (biodiesel is much more hygroscopic than diesel, at least ten fold more). There were no recorded instances of the typical solvency effects biodiesel can inflict. Nor were there any instances of fuel filter clogging of Vilicus Farm’s equipment. In all, Vilicus Farms successfully used biodiesel with no operational or maintenance complications. Quinn Farm and Ranch has yet to use straight vegetable oil as fuel for this project as they are awaiting repairs to the tractor that has been retrofitted to run vegetable oil. Quinn Farm and Ranch originally installed an Elsbett retrofit system. The Oil Barn collected 1,225 gallons of waste fryer oil which was processed into straight vegetable oil fuel and is awaiting use.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Strengthening Agriculture’s Infrastructure Conference

The BEC and The Oil Barn attended and presented at the Western SARE-sponsored Strengthening Agriculture’s Infrastructure Conference in Portland, OR in December 2012. The presentation served as a platform to highlight the project’s objectives and successes, to date (Documents 6 & 7).

AERO farm tour

The BEC partnered with Kevin Moore of the Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) to organize and conduct a farm tour at Quinn Farm and Ranch. BEC staff conducted a presentation and distributed informational flyers to educate tour participants on the details and potential outcomes of this project. Also incorporated into the farm tour was a survey inquiring on tour participants’ knowledge and interest in oilseeds and related matters (Documents 3, 4, 8).

Restaurant Survey

A survey was composed to gauge multiple restaurants’ interest in purchasing Montana produced safflower oil and general vegetable oil use. It also aimed to assess methods of waste fryer oil disposal. All results gathered were from restaurants in Butte, MT. Over 90% of respondents said they would be interested in having their oil collected free of charge and over 50% of respondents are interested in locally grown oil (Document 1 & 5).

Post-Harvest Producer Survey

A survey was distributed to project producers to obtain agronomic and economic data of growing safflower, as well as obtain opinions on opportunities or barriers to a successful oilseed industry in Montana (Document 2).

Informational Flyer

An informational flyer was created to distribute to anyone interested in the project. It was distributed at AERO’s farm tour at Quinn Farm and Ranch, to numerous parties who toured the BEC during the project timeline, at the Strengthening Agriculture’s Infrastructure Conference, and various educational workshops hosted by the BEC (Document 3).

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The most significant impact of this project is the public-private partnership created between the BEC and The Oil Barn-a self-sustained, private enterprise that proves oilseeds can be grown for food and fuel, while benefitting the local economy and the local and global environment. Key outcomes of this project include:

* The University of Montana Dining Services, through the Farm to College Program, sources the entirety of its culinary vegetable oil as hi-oleic safflower oil from The Oil Barn. Approximately fifty percent of the safflower oil is permanently consumed in baking; however, the other fifty percent is returned to The Oil Barn where it is processed into straight vegetable oil fuel to be used by Quinn Farm and Ranch.

*One permanent, full-time career was created through this project.

*MSU-Northern Dining Services is committed to using hi-oleic safflower vegetable oil when it becomes available.

*Over 1,000 acres of organic safflower has been contracted by The Oil Barn to meet market demands for hi-oleic organic safflower oil. This amount is expected to grow when The Oil Barn fulfills its vision of expanding.

*Vilicus Farms is creating an internship program aimed at increasing on-farm use of biofuels and bio-lubricants.

*Vilicus Farms has proposed to conduct a similar demonstration project that involves partnership with the BEC, Peterson Grain and Cattle and Vilicus Farms. Vilicus Farms would grow safflower and the BEC would process and distribute the culinary safflower oil and recycle the wvo into biodiesel to be returned back to Vilicus Farms. The safflower meal would go to Peterson Grain and Cattle as a feedlot ration for their registered Angus bulls.

*2.4 tons of CO2, along with other diesel fuel contaminants, were reduced from the atmosphere through biodiesel use.

*This project illustrated how safflower can be grown on both conventional and organic farms as an economical and agronomical crop in north-central Montana.

*No land that was used to produce food was displaced to produce fuel; it was used to produce both.

Economic Analysis

Seed to exhaust

Scenario/assumptions:

  • 4 crusher capacity
    • Capable of 20lbs of seed per hour, each
    • Crushing efficiency is 27% oil, 73% meal per pound of seed
  • Crushers costs $0.18/hour to operate
  • 1 salaried employee at $30,000 per year
  • 120 crushing hours per week
  • SVO fuel is processed at 15 gallons per hour
  • $0.14 / hour -SVO fuel processing costs using WVO designs centrifuge
  • Electrical rate is $0.11 per kwH
  • Safflower seed costs $0.26 per lb
  • 35 lb carboys, with shipping, cost $4.25 per carboy ($2.87 for carboy, $1.38 per carboy for shipping)
  • Transportation capacity = 3,100 lbs
    • Fuel costs = $3.75/gallon
    • Mileage costs=$0.55/ mile
    •  Fuel economy=17 miles per gallon
  • 75% of oil delivered is returned as waste vegetable oil (wvo)
    • For every 1 lb of oil delivered, only .75 lbs return
    • For a 3,100 lb delivery of fresh oil, 2,325 lbs of wvo are returned for use as fuel

Production and sale of safflower oil

Income

$1.50 / 1 lb of oil

$0.10 / 1 lb of safflower oilseed meal or $0.27 for every 1 lb of oil created

Therefore, 1 lb oil produces $1.50 + $0.27 = $1.77 for every 1 lb of oil sold

Expenses

Feedstock: Fixed Cost

1 lb of oil / 0.27 = 3.7 lbs of seed x $0.26 / lb = $0.96 per lb of oil

Packaging: Fixed Cost

                $4.25 / 35 lbs of oil per carboy = $0.12 per lb of oil

Electricity: Fixed Cost

                ($0.18 / kwH) / (20 lbs seed / hour per crusher) = ($0.009 / 1 lb of seed) x (3.7 lbs seed / 1 lb of oil) = $0.03 / 1 lb of oil

Transportation: Sliding cost

                (250 miles one way trip) / (17 miles / gallon) = ~15 gallons x ($3.75/gallon) = $56.25

                250 miles one way trip x ($0.55 / mile) = $137.50

                $137.50 + $56.25 = $193.75 / (3,100 lbs of oil)= $0.06 / 1 lb of oil  

Salary: Sliding costs

(120 crushing hours / week) x (20 lbs / hour) x (4 crushers)= 9600 lbs per week x (50 weeks / year)= 480,000 lbs of seed per year x 27% = 129,600 lbs of oil

($30,000 salary / year ) / (129,600 lbs oil / year) = $0.23 / 1 lb of oil

 Expense Total = $1.39 / 1 lb of oil

Net Income = ($1.77 income / 1 lb of oil) – ($1.40 expense / 1 lb of oil) = $0.37/ 1 lb of oil sold)

Production and sale of fuel

Income

Income from sale of svo or biodiesel fuel negotiated with farmer who supplied oilseed

Expenses

Transportation: Sliding cost

(250 miles one way trip) / (17 miles / gallon) = ~15 gallons x ($3.75/gallon) = $56.25

250 miles one way trip x ($0.55 / mile) = $137.50

$137.50 + $56.25 = $193.75 / (2,325 lbs of oil)= $0.08 / 1 lb of wvo returned

Processing: Fixed cost

($0.14 / hour) / (15 gallons / hour) = ($0.01 / gallon) / (7.6 lbs oil /gallon) = <$0.01 / 1 gallon =negligible

Expense total= ($0.08 / 1 lb of wvo refined into svo) x (7.6 lbs of oil / gallon) = $0.61 / gallon for svo

For biodiesel, add $1.56/gallon processing. Total expense for biodiesel production would be $2.17 / gallon

Farmer Adoption

As of October 2013, The Oil Barn has continued to contract with both Quinn Farm and Ranch and Vilicus Farms to grow safflower for culinary oil production (LMS Grain has retired). In addition, The Oil Barn has contracted over 1,000 organic acres and three more organic growers (for a total of five growers) and will soon be doubling its crushing capacity to supply current and growing demands for organic safflower oil. Based on sentiments expressed by this project’s producers, adoption of growing oilseeds for food and fuel production is predicted to remain steady, if not grow. The Oil Barn will continue to process straight vegetable oil for fuel for Quinn Farm and Ranch.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

• More research on incorporating safflower into dryland organic rotations

• Identifying the best seed varieties for varying micro-climates of north-central Montana processing food grade oil

• There needs to be a guide or centralized document addressing what the state of Montana requires in order to be a food grade vegetable oil processor/producer for fryer-oil consumption

• Feasibility study needed to determine market capacity for fryer oil sales in Montana using svo as a fuel

• Very little technical information available to farmers who wish to retrofit their farming equipment to use svo fuel

• Minimal data available on engine performance when using svo fuel

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.