Raleigh lands grant for biodiesel production at wastewater plant

By The City of Raleigh | August 01, 2012

The city of Raleigh has received a $100,000 grant from the Biofuels Center of North Carolina to purchase processing equipment and begin biofuel production at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

In 2010, the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department staff planted 27 acres of sunflowers on effluent-irrigated lands, which yielded 1,258 gallons of biodiesel. One lesson learned from the pilot project was the unanticipated cost of crushing seed and the lack of local processors. The Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant currently uses approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel per year for agricultural equipment operation. The plant’s staff is pursuing the development of an oilseed processing facility on site to displace at least 50 percent of the diesel fuel used annually with biodiesel.

The proposed oilseed processing and biodiesel production system will be set up as an automated 24-hour-a-day operation with two 100-pounds-per-hour screw presses and a filter press. The press will be capable of processing approximately 1.6 tons of seed per day or 32 tons of seed per month. If production capacity is required beyond the capabilities of the facility, the City of Raleigh will partner with a local biodiesel company to process the oil to biodiesel after initial pressing and other production steps are completed.

The project goal is to increase energy crop potential using existing farm equipment, storage and operational capacity by expanding vertically, through equipment purchase and best processes, to manufacture biodiesel fuel for the city’s fleet. The city of Raleigh seeks to partner with North Carolina State University to assess yields and costs under irrigated and nonirrigated acreage as well as biosolid and nonbiosolid-treated acreage. Biofuel production advances will serve as a model for other North Carolina municipalities, and assist in meeting the state of North Carolina’s goal of displacing 10 percent of petroleum fuels with locally grown biofuel.

The city of Raleigh will serve as a model training site for other municipal wastewater treatment facilities in the state. Across North Carolina, 203 municipal facilities, with more than 90,000 acres, were permitted by the state of North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to land apply wastewater or biosolids. Municipal facilities may be able to make a significant contribution to the state’s petroleum fuel displacement while minimizing competition between food and biofuels for prime agriculture land.

Specific goals and objectives include the following:

-Develop a vertical oilseed processing facility for sunflower and canola crops produced onsite, maximizing the city of Raleigh’s existing agricultural equipment and storage facilities and existing labor resources, especially during the typically slower winter months when processing would occur. This vertical solution includes the grant-funded purchase of an oil press, filter press, oil storage units, biodiesel reactor and automation system. Based on the city of Raleigh’s pilot project in 2010, it would be more cost-effective to process/vertically integrate onsite, maximizing fuel yields while minimizing resources lost to transportation and processing costs.

-Evaluate crop yields for canola in the winter and sunflowers in the summer to assess biofuels yields and costs of different crops. The city, in close partnership with North Carolina State University, is well-poised to assess data under effluent-irrigated and noneffluent-irrigated acreage as well as biosolid- and nonbiosolid-treated acreage. Cost offsets to fuel usage and by-product generation from the biofuel process—such as the generation of glycerin (currently purchased by wastewater facilities)—will be assessed as part of integrating biofuel production into municipal operations.

-Serve as a model for other North Carolina municipalities and contribute to the Biofuels Center of North Carolina’s mission by reporting costs, benefits and equipment and methods used to help reach the 10 percent conversion goal.

-Create training opportunities and disseminate electronic information, directly involving other municipalities for field-trip outreach and process viewing, comparing city of Raleigh’s results with other currently active North Carolina State University research on woody biomass resources.

The goal of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina is to develop a statewide biofuels industry sector to reduce the state's dependence on imported petroleum. The Biofuels Center of North Carolina is the nation's only agency working comprehensively for all aspects of biofuels development. It is a private nonprofit corporation charged with developing a large-scale, statewide biofuels industry sector to provide alternatives to imported petroleum fuels. The center assists all parties involved statewide in the science, growing, production, and logistics of biofuels, and also addresses the educational, public information, and policy issues of this growing new sector.



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