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Thread: Biofuel production and zoning

  1. #1
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    Biofuel production and zoning

    I am doing some research on biofuel production and the relationship of this use to zoning classifications. More specifically, I am doing research on soybean oil and the processing of this oil for biodiesel production. A landowner is attempting to produce biodiesel from soybean oil on his property which is currently zoned agricultural. I am trying to find any examples of biofuel operations located on land zoned agricultural. So far, the biofuel operations I have found have been located on properties zoned industrial. Any studies or resources related to this topic would be appreciated as well.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Yes, as far as I can tell you are correct. I did some research about a year ago when I wrote code for an ag-industrial district including bio-processing facilities. I did not come across any such facilities in ag zones. I did, however, come across a few such facilities in places without zoning.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    In my former place of employment, I had one rezone to General Industrial. We didn't have an agriculture industry zoning district, tho that makes the most amount of sense. Bottom line- Biofuel plants are a distillery, which is an industrial use and has the same impact on the surrounding are. They make 200 proof alcohol that they have to denature with a small amount of gasoline so people don't drink it.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian CDT's avatar
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    We dealt with this issue about a year ago. A couple was doing this in their residential garage. So far we haven't adopted anything but we told those people that they had to do it in an industrial zone because of the hazardous chemicals that are also used in the production process. Some of them are combustible. We had our fire department review the process with us and they told us it could potentially be dangerous if not handled properly. We do need to adopt something. Seems to me like AG would be an okay zone if it was far enough from other properties. Maybe it would be a good conditional use permit. Administratively approved based on some basic distance requirements. I wouldn't want to see it be thrust into the public forum because we want to encourage things that help our climate. That said, I don't care for biofuels but it is a step in a direction away from crude oil. Sorry to digress.

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    I find my self in a similar position as dathomp6. I am planning on setting up a commercial scale biofuel operation, but from a different source than soybeans. I too have had the question "where does this operation fall into?" Zone-wise. Because the grower and the refiner is the same person at the same site does that make the site industrial or agricultural. I see some confusion in this thread by what is thought of as biofuel. There are two common types of biofuel, there is the ethanol which would be a distillery but there is also biodiesel which involves no such process.

    I believe that making biofuel out of soybeans would involves extracting the oil out of them which would make the final product a biodiesel. The process to extracting oil, unless hexane is used, is no more complicated or dangerous than an oil press. dathaomp6 are you planning on refining the oil as well? If so what kinds of chemicals and processes would you need to use?

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    "dathaomp6 are you planning on refining the oil as well? If so what kinds of chemicals and processes would you need to use? "

    I am referring to an operation where the oil is separated from the soybean and subsequently mixed with ethanol and a catalyst to produce a "pure" biodiesel leaving a glycerol by-product.

  7. #7
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    bio-fuels and zoning

    In my community, we had a request to allow a bio-diesel plant. Since we had no specific zone to allow this use, I recommended a change to our zoning ordinance to allow a bio-diesel plant in the Light Manufacturing or Transportation zones. We do not have an Industrial zoning district. The Transportation district is a strip of land running parallel to a major highway with a railway line behind it.

    However, what I found was there was so much confusion about what a bio-fuel is and how it is produced that the Council was opposed to allowing the use. It was only after a site visit to an established facility by some of the Council members and P&Z Commission, that those apprehensions were eased. Of course, by that time, the applicants had found a tract to develop outside the city. Our community lost tax revenues and potential jobs in what I found to be a clean industry.

    As alternative fuels are produced in response to petroleum fuel prices, zoning codes need to adjusted to allow more green industries. Education will be the key to getting these changes passed.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Hubby is going to start making biodiesel for his personal use, the setup he is looking at has the capacity to make about 80 gallons a day. There is nothing in our county zoning code prohibiting such an activity thank goodness. We probably will not be generating that much fuel and for the most part it will be stored on the truck that it is fueling. He is going to get one of those 100 gallon tanks for the bed. That will make my equine road trips much more enjoyable.

    I don't understand how the chemicals that go to making biodiesel would be more hazardous than some of the "normal" chemicals that people store on their property. Think about pesticides, herbicides, fuel for mowers, etc. If someone wants to do it on a small scale on their property for personal use, I say go for it.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I think that this may be a matter of becoming an illegal alcohol "still," which could be used for "other than personal" consumption.

    Also, I understand that even under expert and scientific control, ethanol gives you about one third less mileage than regular gasoline.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    The first thing to keep in mind here is that there is a huge difference between bio-diesel and ethanol. People can easily make bio-diesel at home, not the case with ethanol. They are created by very different processes with very different ingredients. I don't think that there is any danger of someone thinking that our bio-diesel operation is a still, nor would anyone want to drink the product.

    I can't see how you can fault someone with some diesel vehicles with wanting to make their own fuel that uses a food industry byproduct and turns it into a clean burning, efficient fuel. Again, I don't buy the chemical argument since the stuff you need to make it can easily be purchased by anyone and stored on their property. I guess it is fear of the unknown? I have run into a lot of people who have no clue what bio-diesel is and no clue how it is made. Anyone wanting to tackle this in their code needs to do some research before making a decision. I doubt that you are going to find any codes allowing people to make the fuel on on industrial properties because up until recently there have not been many people doing it. With the way things are going, I can imagine this becoming a more popular practice and many people starting to make bio-diesel in their backyard shed. If could happen in single family zones as well as agriculturally zoned properies. If it were me, I would limit people to the amount of bio-diesel they could make based on some sort of personal consumption allowance. I would not be worried as much about where it happens as how it happens.
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  11. #11
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post

    Also, I understand that even under expert and scientific control, ethanol gives you about one third less mileage than regular gasoline.
    That greatly depends upon the vehicle and the driver, my personal empirical data show a 21.4 percent average decrease in my Taurus over many tankfulls.
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Giff57, you are doing great in losing only 21.4 % in miles per gallon.

    Here is a site that finds 33% is average loss in mpg:

    http://zfacts.com/p/436.html

    And here is one from Consumer Reports that finds a 27% reduction:

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/c...ginMethod=auto

  13. #13
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    That is not at all what the first site says it just projects the difference in BTU content to MPG.

    The Consumer Reports article is close to what a friend reports with his Tahoe.

    The in car computers adjust the air fuel mixture and other variables depending upon how much alcohol the sensor detects. So in real cars, results vary from the pure energy differential. I am sure I do better than average because I drive like the 50 year old guy I am.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Here is a site that claims to be able to provide you with an ethanol still at whatever size you want:

    http://www.circlebio.com/ethanol_pla...nol_stills.htm

    However, beware of the "Revenuers."

    And here is an article on use of stills for biodiesel:

    http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories...s_304119.shtml

    I imagine the "manufacture" of this "home brew" aromatic fuel could be a nuisance problem in residential areas if not a fire or explosion hazard.

  15. #15
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    Let's keep this on topic, people. The discussion of the efficiency of biofuel as a power source should be for another thread.

    mendelman
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