Pilot production of biodiesel from canola in New England

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,925.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $8,380.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Peter Sexton
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    Canola production: Ten acres of canola will be grown on three farms near Presque Isle, Maine for a total of 30 acres of canola devoted to this project. Seed will be sown at a rate of 5 lbs per acre in early to mid-May. It will be fertilized at a rate of 50-0-0 lbs NPK per acre in fields that had been potatoes in the previous year. Research has failed to show a response to P or K in canola following potatoes in our area. This seed will be combined and delivered to the crushing facility owned by CHB Proteins LLC in Washburn, Maine.

    Variety Evaluation: Twenty varieties of canola will be evaluated for yield and oil content at three sites (Presque Isle, ME; Orono, ME; Alburg, VT). Plot size will be 5 by 20 ft laid out in a randomized complete block design with four replications. At the Presque Isle and Orono sites, yield samples will be taken using a small-plot combine. At the Vermont site, three 1 m2 crop cuts will be taken by hand at maturity and the samples threshed. Seed weight and moisture percentage will be determined for each plot sample. Total oil content will be estimated by ether extraction for each variety at each site.

    Oil Extraction: Seed will be crushed for oil using a small scale crusher (Model 1500 Expeller Press, Insta-Pro Inc., Des Moines, Iowa). The oil will be filtered then reacted with methanol added under high pH to remove glycerin (base-catalyzed transesterification) to convert the raw vegetable oil to biodiesel. The meal will be sold either as a feed supplement for livestock, or as a fertilizer source for organic farmers. The oil will be delivered to Ferris Oil Company of Presque Isle, Maine. Ferris Oil Company is a local provider of home heating oil and of diesel fuel sold to farmers. Mr. Ferris has agreed to blend and test-market the biodiesel as home heating oil and as diesel fuel sold to farmers provided it does not show any problems in initial testing.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Goals:
    1) Demonstrate the feasibility of producing biodiesel fuel using a locally grown oilseed crop [i.e. canola] as a source of raw material.

    2) Identify and overcome whatever constraints are encountered in production in a sustainable and community conscious manner.

    3) Enumerate costs and returns on production and communicate said results to farmers in New England and the Northeast.

    4) Identify varieties of canola that would be most promising for production in New England.

    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.