Battlefield Plastic Biodesel research project receives funding

By | March 01, 2006
A newly funded research project seeks to bring biodiesel production and waste management together on military front lines. An initiative by Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, earmarked $3.3 million in the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for the Battlefield Plastic Biodiesel pilot research project, to be conducted by West Central Cooperative in Ralston, Iowa, and General Atomics of San Diego, Calif.

The three-year research project seeks to develop new technology to dissolve waste plastics with specialized biodiesel, thus producing an enriched fuel for use in field generators. This process is planned for use in the battlefield, where tremendous amounts of waste plastics are generated-mostly in the form of supply containers.

According to Latham, who is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, finding a productive way to deal with this waste was a high priority for the Defense Department. He said this technology would provide a "win-win situation to recycle waste and convert it into energy." It could provide an answer to the expensive logistics of transporting fuel to the battlefield and freighting out the plastic waste.

West Central CEO Jeff Stroburg said, "We're excited about the prospect of biodiesel breaking into even more diverse markets." The company, which is the largest farmer-owned soybean co-op in the United States, started producing SoyPower-brand biodiesel at the Ralston facility in 1996. It has also been a leader in biodiesel research; in 2004, the company received a $1.9 million grant from the USDA for the development of new technologies.

General Atomics is a privately held company that specializes in high-technology systems development. "This project affords the opportunity to make a real difference in how biodiesel is used by the military," said James Elliott, program manager of General Atomics. "By combining West Central's biodiesel expertise with [General Atomics'] technology development expertise, the project could provide a viable waste-to-energy process for front-line use by our soldiers."
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