Take Your Pick

Renewable Energy Partners of New Mexico has created a one-of-a-kind pump that offers Santa Fe drivers a choice of B20, E85 or E10
By Tom Bryan | October 01, 2004
Gazing up curiously at the alternative fuels dispenser at the Amigo Mart Conoco station at the corner of Baca Street and Cerrillos Road in the heart of Santa Fe, N.M., a customer might think pump No. 10 has been mass produced by a giant international fuels distributor. The vibrantly colored pump has a sharp design-a very clean look-and clear, uncomplicated labeling. Filling up their vehicle's fuel tank with one of three biofuel blends, the customer would have no idea that the pump they are using is 10 years old, refurbished and one of a kind.
That's right. The alternative fuels pump fondly referred to as the Baca Street Biofuels Station is, in a sense, homemade.

The pump, which was dedicated by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in early October, is likely the first of its kind in the nation, perhaps the world. It was designed, created and is maintained by a not-for-profit organization called Renewable Energy Partners of New Mexico (REP), an organization now run by Biofuels Program Director Charles Bensinger. The pump offers Santa Fe drivers a choice of B20, E85 or E10. It's what REP refers to as "something for everyone."

Bensinger developed the concept and raised the grant money for the station and also administers its operation in conjunction with Amigo Mart. He is responsible for such tasks as ordering fuel and handling calls from customers (some delighted, some confused). At the end of the day, REP's mission is being accomplished. More of Santa Fe's 80,000-plus residents are buying clean fuels.

"Our intention is to clearly demonstrate that domestically-produced renewable fuels can be used by anyone right now in their existing vehicle without modification," Bensinger said. "We wanted to make these alternative fuels available at a typical gas station. We didn't want it on the outskirts of town."

Bensinger said Santa Fe is a biodiesel-friendly town. "We've got a good mix of people here, from people pulling horse trailers and driving diesel trucks to those driving diesel-powered Volkswagons. It's a very environmentally-conscious community and a wealthy community where people are willing to pay for the fuel they want."

The Biofuels Station is the result of what Bensinger describes as a two-year process in which REP developed the station's concept, found an appropriate site and raised the funds needed for the equipment and the fuel.

The U.S. DOE and the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition provided major equipment grants (administered through the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department) and local foundations pitched in with administrative and operations support.

The pump itself was purchased for $2,500, a bargain compared to a new pump, which can cost $15,000 to $25,000, Bensinger said.
A grueling eight-month period of site preparation (including the installation of a 10,000-gallon underground biodiesel storage tank) and creative work led up to the project's completion. The storage tank was delivered in June and installed a few weeks later. The dispenser itself was painted at an Albuquerque auto body shop and installed in late July. Special graphics for the dispenser were added to the pump in mid-August. Everything is distinctly identified on the pump and color-coded-right down to the hoses-to clearly differentiate between the fuels.
REP purchases its biodiesel from Colorado-based Blue Sun Biodiesel, which has additives that reduce NOx and improve the cold flow properties of biodiesel.

REP installed its first biofuels station, an E85 pump, at a separate Amigo Mart in Santa Fe in 2003. The group is currently working on a grant for a 20,000-gallon aboveground biodiesel tank that would serve area fleets. Bensinger is also working on creating another not-for-profit group that would help communities start up their own biodiesel and ethanol stations. "I'm working on a six-step plan to get biofuels into more communities," he said.

For more information about Renewable Energy Partners of New Mexico or the Baca Street Biofuels Station, go to www.
renewableenergypartners.org.


Tom Bryan is editorial director of Biodiesel Magazine. He can be reached at tbryan@bbibiofuels.com.
 
 
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