NDSU tests canola oil-based biodiesel

By | April 01, 2006
Gary Willoughby, a research specialist at North Dakota State University's (NDSU) North Central Research Extension Center (NCREC) in Minot, N.D., has been testing canola-based biodiesel in three tractors since June 2005. So far, results have been positive, and he's letting area farmers know. "We've had no measurable differences in horsepower (using biodiesel)," Willoughby said. "After talking with farmers, I've found they are willing to use it, and they want to start growing canola."

He initially started using B20 in a four-cylinder Case IH CX80, a 29-horsepower New Holland compact utility tractor and a 170-horsepower John Deere 4840. Then, he gradually upped the CX80 to B100. Willoughby said he's experienced no problems while running all three pieces of equipment under operating conditions ranging from yard work to field cultivation.

The NCREC conducted engine dynamometer and oil sample analyses on the equipment prior to introducing biodiesel. A second oil sample, with no noticeable changes, was taken from the CX80 following 184 hours of operation.

The feedstock for the NCREC's biodiesel was donated by Archer Daniels Midland Co.'s (ADM) Enderlin, N.D., facility and transesterified at NDSU's Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering lab in Fargo, N.D.

Willoughby plans on using the NDSU-produced biodiesel until two planned nearby biodiesel plants are brought on line and can provide a steady supply of fuel. Dakota Skies Biodiesel LLC is planning a 32 MMgy biodiesel facility in Minot, while ADM is planning a 50 MMgy facility in Velva, N.D., located 20 miles southwest of Minot. Willoughby said despite North Dakota farmers planting an expected 1 million acres of canola in 2006, twice that would be needed to meet demand for the two proposed plants.

The NCREC is studying techniques to make canola planting and harvesting more productive. For example, it will plant canola in a tighter crop rotation in order to study disease management and yield.

Information on the NCREC's canola rotation study can be found online at www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/minot/rotation/index.htm.
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