Maine's second biodiesel producer comes online

By Susanne Retka Schill | August 19, 2009
Posted September 8, 2009

Jarmin Kaltsas was making biodiesel for heating a Maine greenhouse when his grandfather told his cousin Dean Sgouros to go see his project. "I was impressed," Sgouros recalled, and the two were soon planning a biodiesel plant. Three years later, the cousins' company, Maine Bio-Fuel Inc., is in production with a 1.5 MMgy batch process at Portland, Maine. Kaltsas is president and Sgouros is vice-president of sales and marketing.

"The system was designed by Jarmin and me," Sgouros said. "We bootstrapped it. The cost is usually around $1 per gallon to build a plant; we built this plant for about half that price using surplus equipment." Sized to match the regional supply of waste vegetable oil, the plant includes a two-stage process with esterification and transesterification and a dry-wash system. "We wanted to create a zero carbon footprint project," Sgouros added. Waste vegetable oil is used to power the process, supplemented with biodiesel that helps to keep the burner clean. By the middle of next year, the cousins hope to be generating their own electricity as well with biodiesel, supplying excess power to the industrial park where the plant is located. "We'd like to make the State of Maine an example of a self-sustaining plant," he said.

The pair anticipates marketing their biodiesel for both transportation fuel and the home-heating market. The plant sits 80 miles north of Massachusetts where a B1 mandate for home heating oil was to take effect in mid-2010. Given the scoring of biodiesel in the proposed rule for the renewable fuels standard, Massachusetts is delaying compliance with that law until the final rule clarifies the situation, Sgouros said. However, he anticipates waste-based biodiesel will have an advantage in that market.

Sgouros also intends to return to another market cultivated when they first started their project. For a time, the cousins operated a small biodiesel plant at a nearby ski resort making fuel to power equipment at Sugarloaf Mountain. The pair dropped that project to focus on getting their biodiesel plant built, although the ski resort continued to use biodiesel. "I'll be going back to them," he said. "We got them started using biodiesel."

Maine Bio-Fuel is the state's second biodiesel producer. Bean's Commercial Grease Inc. operates a 1 MMgy plant using waste vegetable oil at Vassalboro, Maine.
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