He Helps Farmers Become Energy Independent

Doug Fluit's mission in life is helping farmers grow and produce their own fuel. He says equipment is now available to make it a very practical proposition to make your own fuel for powering diesel machinery or electric generators.

"Years ago, farmers used 20 percent of their land to produce hay and grain for their horses," says Fluit, who markets the do-it-yourself Cropland Biodiesel system. "Now we can get the fuel we need with just 10 percent of our crops."

Best of all, he points to a variety of government incentives that can reduce the out-of-pocket costs for fuel-making systems. These include the $1/gal. IRS tax credit, USDA cash grants, and USDA loan guarantees.

Fluit sells a variety of turnkey systems designed to run 24/7 and produce from 100 to 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per day. His thermostatically-controlled systems heat oilseed to the correct temperature for maximum oil release when extruded. The oil is then pumped into one of two processing tanks where methanol and potassium chloride (potash) are added and circulated. Fluit prefers potash to the more commonly used lye, as it is less hazardous to the operator and the environment. Potash is also biodegradable, less expensive and easier to find.

Oil settles out, and impurities (glycerin) are pumped out. The oil is then pumped through a second processing tank where a custom-built water wash system further purifies the oil.

Fluit says his systems have proven themselves since he began importing them from China 2 1/2 years ago. He has sold close to 50 machines and says the only problems have occurred while breaking in operator and equipment.

"The biggest problems are at start up," he says. "People start ramming and jamming oilseeds through too fast."

Once the system and the operators are broken in, Fluit says there are few problems. Even letting a unit run unattended for several days is acceptable. "Just heat it up and start," he adds.

One concern with even commercial biodiesel is purity. Fluit says that is not a problem with his units. "Cleanliness is always a big factor," he emphasizes. "If you are trying to meet industry specifications, simply run it through the processor a second time, but with only 20 percent of the chemicals. You'll get the rest of the glycerin out."

Any oilseed can be used in the Cropland Biodiesel systems. However, Fluit encourages his customers to try crops other than soybeans. "Soybeans at 12 to 15 percent oil content are at the bottom as an oil source," he says. "Sunflower and canola are good, and camelina is coming on strong, especially on marginal land. Cottonseed also has a lot of oil in it, but you have to pull the lint off first or it will wick the oil back up."

Fluit says he has a cotton seed delinter that he is experimenting with. He hopes to have it running with a large system he is building that will use exhaust from a biodiesel powered generator to heat the seed for pressing.

One sign of customer satisfaction, adds Fluit, is customers coming back to add a larger system to the one they started with. "Most guys like to start small to get their feet wet, then add a second and third system," he says. "They'll start with a 300-gal. system and then go to a 500-gal. system."

Cropland systems can be powered with either electric or diesel motors. Most smaller systems run with electric motors, notes Fluit. Prices vary, depending on size and type of motor. The CLB-300 system can produce 200 to 300 gal. per day. It includes an electric heated press, two 115-gal. processing tanks with water wash systems, a 5 hp electric motor or a 7.75 hp diesel motor and two 500-gal./hour processing pumps.