Bluegrass-roots movement

From Mammoth Cave National Park to the Carmeuse Lime Mines, Kentucky is embracing biodiesel with open arms.
By Tom Bryan | January 28, 2004
Mining, even by new standards, is a profession not void of risk. Miners must deal with low light, dicey subterranean environments and occasionally precarious conditions.

Fortunately, diesel exhaust is one less hazard facing miners today, thanks to new filtering equipment and, in some cases, the use of biodiesel.

Kentucky is home to the second and fourth largest lime mine operations in the United States. Both are using B35 in equipment and vehicles, achieving significant air pollution reductions.

The Carmeuse Lime Mine Co. has worked with the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition (KCFC) and the Kentucky Division of Energy to address new mining industry regulations for underground air quality. The regulations, established in 2001 by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), adopted new limits on human exposure to diesel particulate matter in underground mines. A pilot biodiesel program, launched late last year, was conducted in two phases, using two different biodiesel blends (B20 and B50) with No. 2 diesel.

Synergistically, Kentucky's own Griffin Industries, which manufactures ASTM-specified biodiesel from recycled vegetable oil, and the Kentucky Soybean Association were able to supply biodiesel for the project.

The Carmeuse mine in Maysville, Ky., along with the company's Black River facility, carried out emissions testing. Alternating in two-week intervals between biodiesel made from recycled vegetable oil (yellow grease) and biodiesel made from virgin soybean oil, mine operators and MSHA officials carefully recorded results. Testing at the nearby Black River site in January 2003 revealed a 31-percent reduction in diesel particulate matter from the mine's exhaust airflow when a 35-percent biodiesel blend was used.

Today, each mine has nearly 75 pieces of underground equipment running on B35.

"The Carmeuse biodiesel program is a great example of the responsible and beneficial fuel choices industries can make," said Melissa Howell, longtime director of the KCFC. "The tests set a precedent that applies to all underground mines-not just lime mines here in Kentucky."

After the Carmeuse mines met success with B35, Joe Jobe, executive director of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), praised Kentucky for being a national leader in biodiesel development efforts.

"Kentucky has been a leader in building broad, effective coalitions to advance biodiesel use in the state," Jobe said, attributing the state's success to the enthusiasm and leadership of Kentucky soybean growers, the KCFC's proactive involvement and the engaging presence of Griffin Industries.

The lime mine is a shining example of the vast biodiesel network that is developing in Kentucky. But what's happening at the lime mines is only a fraction of what Kentucky is achieving with biodiesel.

Due in large part to the tireless efforts of the KCFC, the commonwealth has been a trailblazer, funding biodiesel programs and fostering market development statewide.

KCFC coordinating success
Using the state's Clean Cities designation as a springboard for success, the KCFC has spearheaded statewide efforts to broaden public acceptance of biodiesel and encourage use of the alternative fuel in fleet vehicles and equipment.

Established in 1993, the KCFC, a non-profit organization, includes private and public sector companies from around Kentucky: automobile manufacturers, fuel providers and all levels of government, from local to federal.

"We've been at this for 10 years now, and I think that's given us real credibility and allowed us to achieve a great deal," Howell said. "We redefine our role as the market and technology change."

Well known for her skillful networking, Howell said, "I don't pretend to know everything, but I always say, 'If I can't give you an answer immediately, I will find someone who can in five minutes.' That's how great our netwrok is."

That type of enthusiastic cooperation is ubiquitous in Kentucky, and has helped biodiesel achieve a broad base of support from government and private industry.

Recently, the KCFC requested and recieved a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create two biodiesel storage and distribution centers in western Kentucky. Furthermore, a joint effort with the Kentucky Division of Energy and the Kentucky Soybean Board led to the creation of a biodiesel economic impact study in Kentucky. In addition, the organization will facilitate the Kentucky Biodiesel Showcase in Frankfurt on Jan. 15, during which the KCFC plans to showcase the tremendous growth of biodiesel use in Kentucky.

The KCFC has high hopes for Kentucky Gov.-elect Ernie Fletcher, who recently unveiled a plan to promote biodiesel use in Kentucky and secure plans for a biodiesel plant in the western part of the commonwealth.

Fletcher, the first republican governor elected in Kentucky in over 30 years, notes Kentucky's rank as the nation's 15th largest soybean grower, producing 70 percent more soybeans than it processes.

"We must invest in soybean processing infrastructure to realize the benefits of an expanding market," Fletcher stated in his "Restoring Hope" plan. "We will work to make sure Kentucky does not miss out."

Kids breathing easier with biodiesel-powered buses

Meanwhile, the KCFC has teamed with the Kentucky Division of Energy and is working diligently to make sure Kentucky schoolchildren don't miss out either.

Already, ten school districts in Kentucky have taken part in a program that funds the use of biodiesel blends-some as high as B20-and dozens more are in line for funding. KCFC administers the money, which is provided by the Kentucky Division of Energy. Howell said the awarded funds are used to buy down the cost of biodiesel.

Not surprisingly, the program has been an immediate success.

"I have a list of schools waiting to use biodiesel," Howell said. "Many of these schools are in rural areas where people understand the need for boosting farming economies. This, coupled with the health and environmental benefits of using biodiesel, is why school bus fleets across the nation are using it."

Among other school bus-related endeavors, the KCFC has applied for placement of a hybrid-electric school bus that will use biodiesel as a secondary fuel souce. The organization will also coordinate with a middle school science class to build a hydrogen fuel cell go-cart, using biodiesel as a hydrogen source. The KCFC also published a Kentucky school curriculum that includes biodiesel.

The same sense of environmental stewardship and health saftey that is driving biodiesel use in school buses led to biodiesel use at one of Kentucky's most famous landmarks.

Mammoth Cave using biodiesel
Mammoth Cave National Park, the most extensive mapped-cave system on earth, is an awe-inspiring American treasure that veils 4,000 years of human history within its subterranean ridges.

Today, those who look after Mammoth Cave, and its scenic Green River Valley, balance the responsibilities of sharing its splendor with the world while, at the same time, preserving the park's natural beauty and fragile ecosystem.

Biodiesel is again part of the solution.

Biodiesel is providing a clean, renewable source of fuel for the park's diesel-powered vehicles and equipment. Nearly all of the park's transit and support vehicles run on alternative fuels, many of them biodiesel-blends. Two ferries on the Green River, which carry 300 cars and light trucks over the famed waterway each day during peak summer months, run on B20. The riding lawn mowers, tractors, backhoes and graters used at the park use B20, too.

In fact, over 10,000 gallons of biodiesel-blended fuel is used annually at Mammoth.

Park managers have facilitated environmental workshops and recently obtained funding to install a new fueling station at Mammoth for biodiesel and other alternative fuels. For these accomplishments, park officials, along with Forever/NPC Resorts, the company that owns and operates Mammoth Cave Hotel, received the Department of Interior's (DOI) 2003 Environmental Achievement Award in early November.

Kentucky has placed biodiesel as a priority for its economy, its environment and its energy security. From Mammoth Cave National Park to the Carmeuse Lime Mines, commitment, dedication and cooperation has made Kentucky a true Biodiesel State. n
For more information, visit the KCFC Web site at
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