Biodiesel Interest High in Boston

By Ron Kotrba | September 01, 2010
As we wrap up this issue of Biodiesel Magazine in early August, BBI International's biomass conference in Boston, the Northeast Biomass Conference & Expo, finished up and was a success. It was a smaller, more regional show compared to other conferences that BBI holds, such as the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, or the International Biomass Conference & Expo. Sometimes the smaller events can offer more chances to engage in conversation and discussion with people, and I know I had that experience in Boston.

I want to personally thank Ed Burke, Mr. Biodiesel as he is referred to in the Boston area. Ed is the owner and chair of Dennis K. Burke Inc., an oil distribution company located in Chelsea, Mass. Ed and I have been in touch for the past several years, he's a solid source of mine for perspective on biodiesel activities in the Northeast. When Ed learned I was coming to Boston, he asked if I would like to go to a Red Sox game at the famous Fenway Park. Even if you're not a baseball fan and you're in Boston, you have to experience Fenway Park, everyone told me. Ed got us great seats so close to the field right behind home plate that I could almost reach out and touch the players. Ed also took me on a tour of his facility, introduced me to his employees and we also made a stop at his retail station where he sells biodiesel and ethanol blended fuels to the general public. Thanks Ed (again) for your great hospitality.

I also got a chance to finally meet Michael Devine, CEO of EarthEnergy Alliance and consultant to the National Biodiesel Board. I've interviewed Michael for stories before but it was a nice experience to finally meet him. Michael is a great conversationalist and he knows his stuff. We talked at length about the biodiesel industry and all of the opportunities that are still out there, especially in the heating oil market. Michael thanks again for the wonderful conversation and all of your ideas-we'll be in touch.

I moderated a biodiesel panel at the show, which featured Robert Cerio who is an engineer with Ocean State Energy Resources and consultant to the NBB. Robert gave a great presentation and provided the audience with a lot of positive news about America's first advanced biofuel-biodiesel. Nat Harris, production manager with Newport Biodiesel, was also featured on the panel. Newport Biodiesel has a great story to tell and Nat did a very nice job telling that story. Two students from the University of New Hampshire were also on the panel, Rebecca Wilson and Gina Chaput. They are part of the UNH Biodiesel Group and were very impressive. Becky spoke about research on a two-stage reaction process she is developing under the guidance of UNH's Dr. Farag. Gina presented on algae research, using wastewater to grow algae for biodiesel feedstock. I strongly believe students are the future of this industry and work going on at the university level is critical to creating a more efficient and robust industry.

What truly impressed me was all of the interest from the audience in this biodiesel panel. There was no shortage of questions, and the crowd was intensely engaged in the panel and what they had to say. The presentations ran short and there was about a half an hour for questions, and we took up every minute of that engaged in discussion. Thanks again to the great panel and the thoughtful questions from those in attendance. The crowd definitely got their money's worth out of the biodiesel panel, that's for sure. And for anyone who thinks the biodiesel industry is on its last leg, you should have seen all the interest in America's first advanced biofuel in Boston. It was very inspiring and gave me newfound hope in this great, and always interesting, field.
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