Soybeans, canola and sunflower seeds have long been used in the production of cooking oils and other products for human consumption. A 60-pound bushel of soybeans, for example, can yield about 11 pounds of crude soybean oil used in cooking, while also producing soymilk that is high in protein and low in fat.
But the oil extracted from the plants can also be used to produce a renewable fuel that does not deplete finite petroleum resources, and that can be used in diesel engines with little or no modification.
Now researchers at Tennessee State University are traveling across the state in an effort to educate farmers on the potential to produce their own biodiesel fuel by demonstrating the process with their new mobile lab.
The eye-catching mobile lab is the showpiece of the University’s pioneering alternative fuels program. Funded with $250,000 from the USDA Capacity Building Grant program, the mobile lab takes biodiesel fuel education right to working farmers, and has all the equipment necessary for producing the alternate fuel.
Local farmers will have the opportunity to see the mobile unit first-hand during the Biodiesel Production Demonstration at Tennessee College of Applied Technology on Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is included. Call Becky Muller at 901-476-0231 to register.
“This region has a modest oil seed production rate by area farmers,” said Dr. Jason de Koff, assistant professor of agronomy and soil sciences in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.
According to de Koff, a typical farm uses an estimated two to six gallons of diesel fuel per acre every year. Depending on the oilseed crop and yield, a farmer could devote one to 15 percent of farm acreage to producing oilseed crops strictly for biodiesel fuel production.
Some of those advantages, according to studies by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Energy, show biodiesel can reduce life-cycle greenhouse gases by 78 percent, the exhaust emissions from biodiesel are essentially eliminated compared with petroleum diesel, and biodiesel produced from agricultural crops can offer a consistent renewable source of energy. Researchers hope to show some of the advantages of biodiesel fuel production when the mobile lab makes its way across Tennessee.