ARS researcher in Peoria, Ill., inspects chilled fuels
winterized for better engine start-ups in
Biodegradable plant esters called
might replace petroleum in hydraulic fluid like that used to operate this
specialized soil sampler.
Stories about ARS research aimed at alternatives to petroleum in fuels and
Helps Turn Vegetable Oil into High-Quality Biofuel, ARS News, June 15, 1999
Plant-Based Hydraulic Fluid, Agricultural Research, November
Cold-Weather Starts for Biodiesel Fuel, Agricultural Research, April
Beneficial Bacteria Discovered, ARS News, December 30, 1997
Yields Oil and Gum Products, Agricultural Research, December 1997
Biodiesel Demonstration at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
By Don Comis
August 11, 1999
What is the Biodiesel Demonstration project?
This August, the two storage tanks that supply diesel fuel for all the
equipment needed to farm on the Beltsville
(Md.) Agricultural Research Centers (BARC) 6,000-acre east side were
filled with biodiesel fuel, a mix of 20 percent soybean oil and 80
percent regular diesel fuel.
The Beltsville center is the largest research facility of the
USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
The one-year demonstration project is designed to test the feasibility of
permanently switching as many federal government vehicles as possible
nationwide to this alternative diesel fuel, using oil from soybeans, corn, or
Other USDA vehicles in the Washington, D.C., area will also run on biodiesel
as part of this project.
The Beltsville farm equipment that will run on this biodiesel fuel includes:
- 20 trucks
- 13 tractors
- 1 forklift
- 1 Humvee
- 1 loader
- 1 compost turner
- 1 chopper
- 1 "haybine" (cuts hay)
- 1 combine
- 1 tanker truck (carries liquid manure)
These vehicles will be used for farm operations, including planting and
harvesting crops, chopping hay and organic mulches, and carrying manure and
livestock bedding to the BARC compost facility.
In addition, BARCs roads and grounds crew have the following vehicles
running on biodiesel:
- 2 bulldozers
- 10 grass mowers
- 1 road grader
- 1 asphalt roller
- 1 wood chipper
- 1 tree stump grinder
- 2 backhoes
- 2 loaders
- 1 dump truck
- 1 tractor
- 1 pickup truck
The tractor, two of the grass mowers, a dump truck and a pickup truck will
be closely monitored. Oil samples from these vehicles were analyzed before they
were filled with biodiesel. More samples will be analyzed at each oil change to
check for engine wear.
These five vehicles were chosen for the close monitoring because they are
heavily used, with the trucks and tractor used year-round. The tractor and dump
truck carry everything from corn silage in the fall to road salt and sand in
the winter. They also double as snowplows.
Are other vehicles at BARC running on biodiesel
The ARS National Visitor
Centers bus, used for tours of BARC, is also taking part in the
biodiesel fuel demonstration. That means a total of 65 vehicles are using
biodiesel at BARC. The tour bus was the first vehicle to fill up on the
alternative diesel fuel.
Why is the use of biofuels important?
Besides helping farmers by opening new markets for their crops, biofuels
have been shown to pollute less and may help engines run cleaner, lowering
BARC chose biodiesel because its equipment already runs on diesel fuel, so
no modifications or equipment purchases were needed. Also, BARC wants to
support the federal effort to reduce reliance on imported petroleum.
Using a renewable, on-farm resource like soybean oil fits in with
BARCs now 7-year-old sustainable agriculture program.
Are there disadvantages to using biofuels?
Biodiesel fuel currently is more costly than regular diesel fuel. Some of
this expense, but probably not all, may be offset by expected reductions in
maintenance costs. Also, the price of biodiesel fuel is expected to drop if it
becomes more widely used.
Scientific contact: Ronald F. Korcak, Associate Area Director, ARS
Beltsville Area Office,
Agricultural Research Service,
Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-5193, fax (301) 504-5863,