Should Vancouver Be Betting on Biodiesel? Peter Brown Believes the City Is primed to Produce Biofuel
by Dameon Pesanti (Columbian) With the earnestness of a missionary, Peter Brown will proselytize about the eco-friendliness of biodiesel and methane digesters — or extol their virtues with the already converted. In his mind, Vancouver could be to the green-energy movement what the San Francisco Bay Area was to the digital revolution, if only people would see the vision and take it seriously.
Brown thinks Vancouver is the right place on the right coast in the right moment in time to push biodiesel forward. He’s got an ambitious plan to buy fuel crops from farmers in the Columbia River Basin, convert them into biodiesel at a facility in Vancouver and then put the fuel on the market — but he needs the right people to buy in.
Brown moved to Vancouver a few years ago just as the drama began to blow up surrounding the Port of Vancouver and its lease to the companies behind the Vancouver Energy oil terminal. He stands squarely in the anti-terminal crowd, but he believes the city’s assets, which made it appealing to the fossil fuels industry — its strong rail, highway and marine shipping infrastructure — also fit well for a biofuels facility.
He dreams of building a biodiesel facility at the Port of Vancouver. Following that, he wants to build and install methane digesters to process human and animal waste into electricity and combustible gas for customers around the region.
Whether those ideas can happen depends on his ability to find people who will take him seriously enough to give him the capital he needs to get his idea off the ground. He believes it’ll take about $300,000 up front to go through the preliminary studies on his roughly $22 million idea.
Tyson Keever is CEO and co-founder of SeQuential, a Portland-based company that produces about 8 million gallons of biodiesel annually. But when it started in 2002, selling its product required something of an educational campaign.
“Almost every conversation we had was about what we do,” he said. “We’d say ‘biodiesel,’ they’d say ‘bio-what?’ That lasted for the first five to six years.”
Keever said since its early days, biodiesel has become better known and the industry has matured into one that delivers a product that meets strict fuel standards. Also, some organizations have embraced blended diesel or biodiesel exclusively at their service stations and in their fleets.
A major driving component behind the growth of domestic biodiesel production has been state adoptions of low-carbon and renewable fuel standards. READ MORE