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Biodiesel : pour alimenter nos futures fermes

Le biodiesel, est un carburant fait à partir d'huiles végétales, de suif de bœuf qui démontre aux fermiers qu'il existe déjà une solution à la montée des coûts des carburants; une solution qui pousse et qui se nourrit sur leurs propres pâturages. 

Le biodiesel peut aussi être fait à partir des déchets d'huiles végétales provenant des restaurants et des friteuses de toutes sortes.

Actuellement, il n'y a pas de source facilement accessible de biodiesel au NB. Mais le Centre Falls Brook travaille sur des plans pour mettre en place une usine de production de biodiesel dans la région.



Fuel for our Future Farms

By Michael Westlake,
Renewable Energy Program Coordinator,
Falls Brook Centre
June 2004

Over the last few months, New Brunswick has witnessed the price of diesel fuel jump nearly 12% (compared to its cost this time last year). Of all consumers, the agricultural industry takes one of the hardest blows. In Europe, soy and canola is booming and farmers are taking advantage of lower fuel costs - partly thanks to a well-supported renewable fuel industry.

(photo: Falls Brook Centre)

Biodiesel, a fuel that can be made from vegetable oil, beef tallow or feedstock, is proving to farmers that they already have a solution to rising fuel costs, a solution that is growing and grazing in their own fields. In addition to crops being grown in farmer's fields, biodiesel is also made with waste vegetable oil that can be recycled from restaurants and fryers. The result is a higher lubricating fuel that can be used in any diesel engine without conversion, and results in less maintenance and quicker biodegradability.

Biodiesel treats the environment about as well as it treats one's tank. It features emission reductions of major greenhouse gases, which are directly linked to climate change, at more than eighty percent that of petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel has additional advantages in that it produces a nominal amount of soot or PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), major carcinogens which contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma.

Much of the global biodiesel supply is being produced from canola oil, a commodity whose production in New Brunswick is rapidly increasing. In Canada, a five-year average of 6(10)6 tons of canola oil are produced each year, with an oil yield of nearly 40% of the bulk weight. This translates to an availability of approximately 2.5(10)6 tons of raw canola oil being produced in Canada per year.

There emerges a debate, though, as to whether we should commit fertile cropland towards fuel production over food. With New Brunswick's major crop being potatoes, you can bet that the major potato processing companies in New Brunswick are churning out a lot of waste vegetable oil. While much of this deep-frying oil is being streamed into dumps and the secondary oil market, therein lies a viable source for biodiesel production.

Despite this vast availability of waste vegetable oil, the question remains: Will farmers make the switch to biodiesel from their trusted petroleum diesel? I had the opportunity to speak with Weitze Dykstra, of Dykstra Farms. Dykstra operates a dairy farm just outside of Knowlesville and is excited about the potential benefits biodiesel can have for his operation. "Any way in which waste can be re-used makes practical sense," he said. His farm equipment includes two Case tractors and a John Deere.

Case International officially approves the use of biodiesel in blends up to five percent in their engines and assures farmers that its use will not affect the engine warranty. John Deere also approves all blends under five percent and further stipulate that its "engines are equipped with fuel injection pumps that are compatible with Biodiesel". Both company websites further offer tips on biodiesel usage, storage, purchasing, and maintenance for farmers. In field trials with John Deere tractors, it was found that the viscous fan, automated to engage when cooling needs are essential, always operated with biodiesel blends while seldomly engaging with 100% petroleum diesel. Although it was found that engine power was reduced, this decline was found to be marginal, 1-3%, in comparison to standard petrodiesel.

Biodiesel does have its drawbacks on farm equipment. Fuel efficiency, for instance, suffers a 7% decrease and cold starting tendencies are at somewhat higher temperatures. But these discrepancies are offset by biodiesel's higher combustion efficiency (a 7% increase) and lower energy balance ratio (energy input compared to energy output).

Most companies require that biodiesel meet regulatory specifications in order for it to be certifiable for engine use. In particular, the criterion set out by the American Standards and Testing Measures (ASTM) ensure standardized levels of the fuel's viscosity (how quickly it gels in the cold) and its rate of ignition.

As for fueling your tank with biodiesel in New Brunswick, there is no readily available source. As biofuel and biotech companies begin slowly sprouting biodiesel production operations across the country, and the government leisurely greases its wheels, the best bet for rapid advancement of the fuel is community-scale production; farmers, rural dwellers, and community cooperatives are taking the lead on igniting production towards fuelling our future. Recognizing this, the Falls Brook Centre is currently working on plans for a biodiesel production facility in the local area. As a recent study appearing in Bioresource Technology asserted, there is a need "to have this added value [of biodiesel from food products] go to farmers and rural economies instead of to specific national companies."