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Oil in Pillager

Oil may have been struck in a field near Pillager by Central Lakes College (CLC) Agriculture Center. Ag Center Director Bob Schafer and Farm Manager Ron Nelson have been experimenting with the use of canola oil as an alternative to diesel fuel to power the center’s farm and industrial equipment.

On a 35-acre plot near Pillager (donated by Anderson Brothers Construction) the center harvested this year’s crop of canola seeds that will be processed to make the fuel, which if it works, will save over $300,000 the center now pays for diesel fuel.

The center has been working with the CLC Diesel Mechanics program to come up with a fuel that will save the college money and create a residual that would be sold as a food source for farm animals.

The success of this endeavor could be a springboard to create a viable alternative to fossil fuels locally.

To conduct this experiment the CLC agricultural center has established a small-scale bio-fuels project to test the “distributed energy concept, which involves growing typical crops in the lakes area and processing and consuming the fuels created locally.

“Canola is a cultivated variety of rapesee, and canola oilseeds are rich in oil content ( 40 percent),” according to an article published by Oilgae, an industry publication. The interest in canola oil as feedstock for biodiesel appears to be gaining ground. A small group of farmers in Australia have started producing biodiesel from canola oil for local use, and a company in North Dakota (USA) in investing significantly to produce biodiesel usingscanola oil.

“Washington State — America’s largest biodiesel plant is in Grays Harbor, Wash., and produces one million gallons of biodiesel from canola grown on Washington state farms.”

Added to the list of entities exploring the use of canola is Staples based CLC Ag Center.

It’s this type of experimentation and pushing the boundaries of alternative fuel sources that makes CLC a tremendous asset to the lakes area.

Students in this kind of learning environment have an opportunity to explore possibilities that could contribute to elimination of America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Keith Hansen