June 23, 2008
TERRELL COUNTY, Ga. (WALB) - Making peanut oil into bio-diesel fuel is not just a dream anymore. Six months into field experiments, South Georgia research scientists say farmers are on the verge now of being able to grow their own diesel fuel, and become more energy self sufficient.
At the U.S.D.A. Peanut Labs fields, tractors run on peanut bio-diesel fuel they grew themselves, and made in their own refinery. Researchers think soon many South Georgia farmers will do the same.
USDA Research Agronomist Wilson Faircloth said "We're making a lot of progress." Since starting their own peanut bio-diesel refinery, the cost of diesel fuel at the pump has doubled. The interest in their project has also skyrocketed along with those costs, as farmers clammer to learn how they can make their own fuel to run tractors and irrigation pumps.
USDA Research Leader Marshall Lamb said "Farmers that are pumping on diesel now are really paying a tremendous price, with bulk fuel at the farm level over four dollars a gallon." Peanut lab researchers have 40 different varieties of peanuts growing in this field, to see which nut they can grow cheapest to make the most oil.
"If we can produce a feedstock for our bio-diesel plant that is cheap enough, then we can basically utilize a whole new crops of peanuts just for fuel," Faircloth said.
The researchers have made their refinery from easily available parts, learning how to make the process from nuts to fuel as simple as possible, so more farmers will produce their own fuel.
Faircloth said "Using peanuts to make bio-diesel fuel is not going to solve our energy problems. But it can certainly keep more monies in our local economy, and be one thing the farmers can do to combat high energy prices."
Currently about two acres of peanuts is making 250 gallons of bio-diesel for about two dollars a gallon, and scientists think their experiments will lower that cost. Some South Georgia farmers have already started setting up their own refineries, and researchers say more are calling every week to learn how to get started. Diesel engines were originally designed to run on peanut oil.
Researchers say they have had no trouble burning peanut bio-diesel, and the emissions are much cleaner.