Planned Biofuel Plant to Use Clarkson-Developed Technology

A biodiesel and bioheating plant using technology created at Clarkson University could be operational by the end of June, plant investors said Monday.

POTSDAM, N.Y. — A biodiesel and bioheating plant using technology created at Clarkson University could be operational by the end of June, plant investors said Monday.

The plant will have the capacity to produce up to 1 million gallons of bioheating fuel and 500,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel per year, said John P. Gaus, president of NextGen Chemical Processes Inc., Potsdam.

Biodiesel is a fuel typically produced from vegetable oils or animal fats, and often mixed with diesel fuel. Bioheat fuel is made from vegetable oils or animal fats and mixed with heating oil.

NextGen Chemical Processes Inc. builds commercial-scale biodiesel refinery equipment and has teamed up with a group of Clarkson researchers for the project. Mr. Gaus declined to comment on potential sites for the plant, noting only it would be located in the north country.

"We expect to close on commercial sites shortly," Mr. Gaus said.

The plant is expected to employ three or four people at startup, but could expand to include sales and financial representatives, Mr. Gaus said. He declined to comment on the estimated construction cost of the plant.

The patent is pending on the biodiesel technology that NextGen has invested in, Mr. Gaus said.

Federal and state officials will be given a demonstration Thursday at Clarkson's Peyton Hall of the biodiesel technology, university and company officials said. The biodiesel production occurs through a chemical process that produces a byproduct -- glycerin -- that can be used in several industrial processes.

The technology, which has attracted interest from state agencies and several Fortune 500 companies, can also be used for pharmaceuticals, food processing and water treatment, Mr. Gaus said.

The plant could also significantly reduce the amount of time needed to make biodiesel fuel because of the chemical process used, project officials said.

"We will be producing biodiesel in minutes," said Roshan Jachuck, a Clarkson chemical engineering professor and director of the Process Intensification and Clean Technology group within Clarkson's chemical engineering department and Center for Advanced Materials Processing.

The investment needed for the plant is substantially less than building a large plant because of the small size of the equipment and its energy efficiency, Mr. Gaus said. The plant can be housed in a building using up a couple of thousand square feet.

The biodiesel fuel can be made from one or a combination of soybean, canola oil and recycled cooking grease, Mr. Gaus said.

Biodiesel fuel can be used in many engines built since 1994 with little or no modification, the U.S. Department of Energy Web site said.

Last year, manufacture of biodiesel products was estimated to reach 20 million gallons, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Michael Johanns said last week in a speech. In 1999, about 200,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel were produced. The demand for biodiesel fuel is growing because of rising gasoline prices and it helps reduce America's dependence on foreign petroleum fuels.

"The demand for biodiesel has grown exponentially the last four years," Mr. Gaus said. The advantages of using biodiesel fuel include that it is more environmentally friendly with fewer harmful emissions than petroleum diesel, it is a renewable energy source and it has a positive economic impact on agriculture, federal officials said.

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