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Harvest Time for Bio-Fuel Test Fields to Aid Marines



Harvest time for bio-fuel test fields to aid Marines

Charlie Hall

PERFECTION — Friday was harvest day at four Canola test fields in Jones and Craven counties, part of a Military Growth Task Force initiative, Fuel the Force.

Mark Sutherland, the executive director of the task force, said the test crop will be turned into bio-diesel within a month and delivered to Marines at Camp Lejeune. The military, he said, has an aggressive mandate for overall renewable energy use.

“It is not just liquid transportation fuels, but solar, wind and other means to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and create a more sustainable energy footprint,” he said. “Another big part of that is creating energy efficiencies, so it is a broader program and liquid transportation fuels is just one piece.”

The test fields should produce about 100 gallons of crude vegetable oil per acre.

The four test sites came from donated acres by local farmers and land owners, including Kenney Mackilwean of Mackilwean Turf Farm in the Perfection community near Jasper; and Jones County sites near Pollocksville provided by Mikael Shepherd and Bobby Banks.

Sutherland said the next phase in the initiative is to get refining capacity to Eastern North Carolina. He said it was logical and cost-effective to refine the fuel in the same region it is produced, cutting transportation costs.

“The sustainable model is to build a refinery where the feed stocks are produced and reduce the overall energy usage in developing transportation fuels,” he said. “In other words, to put a refinery in the western part of the state, where feed stocks aren’t as plentiful and then use fossil fuel to transport it all the way here to the end user in the East is not that sustainable.”

While the test sites total only total less than 20 acres, Sutherland said farmers would respond if there is a market.

The project would have many regional benefits, he said.

“It is a way to add value to North Carolina agriculture,” he said. “And, it will help the military. They want more (bio-fuel) than they can buy.”

The project was coordinated with the assistance of Jones County Cooperative Extension agriculture agent Jacob Morgan.

The Canola pods have small black seeds, which Sutherland said has oil and protein which can be renewable for many purposes such as cooking oil and bio-diesel.

The harvested product Friday will go to a crusher at the N.C. State University agricultural lab. Part of the product will remain there for animal feed and the rest will go to Piedmont Bio-fuels in Pittsboro, where it will be converted into B-100 or 100 percent bio-fuel.

From there, it will go to Potter Oil Co. in Aurora for blending. He said a blend of 20 percent B100 and 80 percent regular petroleum diesel does not require converting an engine for its use.

The nine-county Military Growth Task Force’s overall initiative of “PlanIt East” is a comprehensive regional planning approach to military growth in the near term, along with future coastal growth.

Fuel the Force is among the agriculture and energy projects.

Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or chall@freedomenc.com.