Volume 123, Number 10
Biodiesel plant to be built at York; first in the state
BY RICHARD PETERSON
Lee Dirkzwager of York wasn’t expecting a life-changing experience when he was encouraged to attend the ND Farmers Union convention in Minot last December. But that’s what it turned out to be. Dirkzwager "got religion" when he heard NDFU President Robert Carlson talk about the advantages of biodiesel fuel.
You might remember the story about the Dirkzwagers which appeared in the June 22, 2005 issue of the Farmers Press. He purchased the former York School in 2003 and was trying to figure out what to do with it. After hearing Carlson speak, Dirkzwager figured he had found the best use for the building.
But he wasn’t sure. He went to the Internet and studied all he could about biodiesel. He bought books and researched its production. He made a trip to California to talk to experts and when he got back he put together the figures which proved that a biodiesel plant of up to four million gallons per year was a profitable venture. It had taken seven weeks of research and only a few days to put the proposal together. He said the financing fell into place in a few days.
It helps that his father, Ken Dirkzwager, became a believer, too. He and Lee put up the $200,000 seed money. Primary financing comes from Bremer Bank. Help has also come from the North Central Planning Council. An interest buy-down from the Bank of North Dakota is in the works and he’s applied to the Benson County Job Development Authority for a grant. When the plant is prepared to produce at capacity an investment of approximately $1,000,000 will have been made.
It also helps that Lee Dirkzwager is a mechanical engineer, specializing in designing electrical controls. He’s worked on industrial production in 40 different states.
And there’s additional help in that his wife, Larisa, a native of Russia, has a degree in chemistry and the making of biodiesel is a chemical process.
The York School and the grounds close by are perfect for a biodiesel plant. "Everything just came together," Dirkzwager said.
A native of Minnesota, Dirkzwager has deep roots in the area. His great-grandfather was Benson County pioneer Olaf Pierson and his grandparents were Ralph and Evangeline Sandven Pierson. His mother, Marian, was their oldest daughter. She married Minnesota native Ken Dirkzwager, who was commissioner of public safety for the state of Minnesota. Marian Dirkzwager died in 1988.
Lee and Larisa now live on the Ralph Pierson farm about three miles south of York. This was the first farm in North Dakota to receive electricity from a rural electric cooperative.
Biodiesel is a fuel made from oils produced from plants: soybeans, canola, sunflowers, etc. It can also be made from used cooking oils from McDonald’s, for instance, but that isn’t the type of oil Dirkzwager is planning to use because it contains impurities. He plans to use virgin vegetable oil, probably shipped in by semi from South Dakota. "ADM and Cargill aren’t interested in selling to a small plant like this one will be," Dirkzwager explained.
The York School will be the office and the testing laboratory. About $30,000 to $50,000 worth of lab equipment will be installed in the school kitchen.
A 24’x34’x21’ high building made of lumber, insulated and covered with metal will be built a few feet east of the school building. This will be the materials preparation and final filtration building. A steel building 40’x35’ will be constructed near that building. This will be the reactor and ingredient storage building. Every area that has ingredients for making biodiesel will have a containment area in case of leaks.
Initially there will be two 8,500 gallon tanks for vegetable oil, a 10,000 gallon tank for methanol, four 15,000 gallon tanks (21’ tall) for biodiesel and several smaller tanks. About $75,000 worth has already been ordered. The tanks will be located in a 50’x40’ containment area.
To make biodiesel, the vegetable oil is heated, methoxide is added and a reaction takes place, called transestrification, which creates biodiesel, excess methanol, glycerine and minor amounts of other products, such as soap. The products are separated in a centrifuge and filtered before being pumped to their individual tanks.
This is a "closed" process with all the liquids contained inside pipes, tanks, filters and the centrifuge. Theoretically the only way the liquids can get out is if someone intentionally opens a tap for a sample or when the tanks are pumped dry. According to Dirkzwager there are no odors and no discharges into the atmosphere.
"We can’t say 100 percent that nothing can go wrong," Dirkzwager says, "but this is the closest thing to 100% we can get. In any case, if there is a spill, it will be contained." The electrical and plumbing work will be done by licensed professionals. This will be a batch operation so the interrupt button can be pushed at any time to stop the process with no damage to the ingredients.
Dirkzwager hired an engineer specializing in permits and laws pertaining to manufacturing processes. He is following the guidelines of the state fire marshal, the Environmental Protection Agency, three levels of FEMA, the state insurance department and the county emergency management agency. These governmental organizations will continue their oversight.
He went to Europe to order the equipment from a plant specializing in the manufacture of biodiesel equipment. It’s expected to arrive here in May or June.
Dirkzwager expects his plant, All American Biodiesel (701-592-3261), to begin production in August. It will be the first commercial biodiesel plant in the state. He expects to produce at a rate equivalent to a million gallons of biodiesel in 2006 (about 250,000 gallons) and expects to expand to four million gallons within three years.
There are two major by-products of the process of making biodiesel: methanol (sometimes known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol) and glycerine.
The methanol will be recycled into the process of making more biodiesel. Dirkzwager plans to burn the glycerine in a special furnace to heat the former York School building and to heat the oil in the process of making biodiesel. "We might be able to sell some of it," he says, but with all the biodiesel plants going up, there’ll be a glut of it on the market. I’m just going to burn it."
So besides the vegetable oil and the chemicals, the only input necessary for production will be electricity.
He envisions the plant operating 24 hours per day with 12-hour shifts. Workers will probably have 3? days on and 3? days off. He’s ready to hire three people with farm backgrounds as lead biodiesel production workers. More will be hired later. He plans to offer a competitive wage with health and life insurance. Oh yes, a discount on biodiesel, too.
So why is everyone getting into the biodiesel market? Dirkzwager explains there are four reasons:
1) There is no sulfur in it. It burns clean with no pollution.
2) It’s a renewable resource that comes from the land.
3) It creates jobs in rural areas.
4) It frees the US from dependence on oil from overseas.
Any diesel engine can burn biodiesel without modifications, but only the highest quality, such as the type which will be made at the York plant, is recommended by manufacturers. Most manufacturers recommend a 5% blend level but that is likely to change to a higher percentage. Many people who make their own biodiesel use 100% and haven’t encountered problems.
One questionable property of biodiesel is that it tends to gel at lower temperatures. It’s fine at any temperature above 30 degrees. In the wintertime it has to be blended with diesel. A mixture of 50% No. 2, 30% No. 1 and 20% biodiesel will be fine at 28 below, according to at least one study in North Dakota.
One other drawback is that it is approximately seven percent less efficient than diesel fuel.
However, when new diesel standards go into effect in October, diesel fuel will have to be refined further and the two fuels will then be comparable.
So where’s all this biodiesel going to go?
Dirkzwager says farmers in a 20-mile radius of York could use his entire four million gallon production. He’s hoping area fuel retailers will purchase it and blend it with their diesel. If that doesn’t happen he could truck it out of the area or he might get into the fuel business and do the blending himself. "I really don’t want to, but that’s an option," Dirkzwager says, adding that farmers can get a $1,500 tax credit on using renewable fuels. "That will buy the tank," he said.
The federal government is pushing for biodiesel production. President Bush even mentioned it in his State of the Union speech. At present there’s a $1 per gallon tax credit on the production of biodiesel. That could expire on Dec. 31, 2008, but Dirkzwager thinks it will be renewed because both Republicans and Democrats are in favor of biodiesel.
Why? Because of the four reasons listed above.
His great-grandfather was a pioneer in this area, and it looks like Lee Dirkzwager is one, too.
Lee Dirkzwager of York points to North Dakota on a map of biodiesel plants in the US. Before the end of the year there apparently will be one in operation at York.
An unusual situation presented itself April 5 when an ice fisherman and fishermen in boats crowded in on each other. This scene was visible about two miles north of Minnewaukan along US 281.
Leeds soldier writes letter from Iraq
The following article was written by SPC David Young, a native of Leeds. He is the son of Brian and Linda Young. Grandparents are Wayne and Mary Brager and Allan and Shirley Young, all of Leeds.
BY SPC DAVID YOUNG
I am currently serving in Iraq with A Company 164 out of Minot. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about our mission here in Iraq.
We are conducting a Trailblazer mission which is also called route clearance. Our mission consists of patrolling the major highways and roadways that coalition troops use to run their convoys and to ensure the safety of all local national people. While conducting our mission we look for improvised explosive devices (IED’s) each day.
These IED’s are nothing more than roadside bombs that are usually set off by command wire or radio controlled devices.
The purpose of the anti-Iraqi force (AIF) is to try to hit our patrol and take out one of our vehicles or a convoy to prevent any movement of American forces throughout Iraq. As a company, we are doing an excellent job on finding these IED’s before they detonate. We are at a 75% average in finding IED’s before they detonate. The rest of the Army troops are at about 45% average.
A Company 164 is doing more than just ensuring the safety of American troops. We are also helping with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police, protecting them in their fight against terrorism.
A Company is well known here in Iraq. Everyone realizes what a dangerous mission we have and helps us out in every way they can. We have worked with many different units here but none more than the 4th Infantry Division, which has a primary mission to clear Iraq of all terrorist acts of violence. When we find one of these IED’s we cordon off the area to prevent anyone from going near the bomb. While we are maintaining the cordon, personnel of the 4th Infantry Division sweeps the area looking for possible trigger men.
Also, if there is air support in the area we have them fly around looking for people trying to get away and call us up to apprehend the individual.
Without us and the help of other units, the roadways would be nothing more than a strategically placed minefield waiting for some poor innocent individual to get hit by one of these IED’s. I am proud to say that A Company 164 saves an average of 1.7 lives each day. I am honored to be part of such an organization which helps save lives every day.
I would like to thank everyone for the support they have given us these past nine months. Thanks to local businesses, friends, family and everyone else throughout the state! Your packages and letters have been a Godsend. You have helped uphold our morale more than you know. Something as small as a single letter to a soldier can put a smile on his or her face just long enough to realize there are people outside this war who care enough to say thank you for what you do. I would especially like to say thank you to Edythe Nelsen. This is a person I barely know who took time to send multiple packages to me that were more than generous. The fact that she took time out of her busy life to send something to a stranger overseas just to say thank you shows the type of community we live in. Our company has encountered many obstacles during this deployment. The help from everyone back home has made our mobilization a little more bearable. We are all anxiously awaiting the day when we can return home and thank each and every one of you in person, but until that day comes we would just like to thank you for everything you have done.
Leeds native David Young is shown with some young Iraqis.
The 4th platoon of Company A, 164th Engineer Battalion of the ND National Guard is serving in Iraq. Platoon members, including David Young of Leeds, are shown with their "Buffalo," the big machine in the background and RG 31’s, which are replacing the Humvees. The Buffalo is a 26-ton machine that clears the roads of improvised explosive devices.
Plan for future
Leeds residents attended a long-range planning meeting held at the school on Tuesday, March 28. Clockwise from left are Mark Swanson (Leeds School Board member), Duane Anderson, Kyle Nelsen, Kim Nelsen, Lisa Anderson, Jane Brown, Barb Mears and Bonnie Tuttle.
Republicans endorse for District 7
Richard (Dick) Anderson of Willow City was endorsed to run for the state senate from District 7. Dick and his wife Susan have two children and farm in northern McHenry County. He is a graduate of Willow City High School and UND.
He also serves on the Rugby Farmers Elevator Board, All Seasons Water Users Board, Farmers Union Oil Co. Board in Willow City, as well as serving as a director of the ND Game & Fish Advisory Board.
Rep. Jon Nelson was endorsed to seek re-election to the state house from District 7. Jon and his wife Sid have three children and farm in the Wolford area in northeastern Pierce County. He is a graduate of Wolford High School and has attended MSU-Bottineau and Minot State University. He also serves on the Heart of America Hospital Board, North Central Corrections & Rehabilitation Center Board and All Seasons Water Users Board.
Nelson was first elected to the ND House of Representatives in 1996 and currently serves as chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee and also serves on the House Human Services Committee. In the interim, he serves on the Administrative Rules Committee, Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, and the budget committee for Human Services.
Thomas Bodine of Velva was also endorsed for a seat in the state house from District 7. He and his wife Kerry have three children. Tom attended high school in Sawyer as well as Velva before graduating from Pickens High School in South Carolina. He is also a graduate of Western Carolina University with a degree in sociology and physical education. The past 10 years he has been a leadership development assistant with the ND Farm Bureau, specializing in the areas of production agriculture, tax and finance and natural resource issues. He also works with individual county boards in an organizational role. He is a defensive driving instructor with the ND Safety Council and continues to work with his brother in a farming and ranching operation in the Velva area.
District 7 is composed of all of McHenry County, including the cities of Bantry, Deering, Towner, Berwick, Denbigh, Granville, Norwich, Velva, Karlsruhe, Voltaire, Bergen, Balfour, Drake and Anamoose; all of Pierce County, including the cities of Barton, Wolford, Rugby, Balta, Silva, Orrin and Selz; the four tiers of townships in northernmost Sheridan County, including the city of Martin; and all townships in Benson County to the west and north of West Bay and Oberon Townships, including the cities of Knox, York, Leeds, Brinsmade, Esmond and Maddock.
Left to right are District 7 Republican legislative candidates, Thomas Bodine of Velva for the house of representatives, Richard Anderson of Willow City for the senate and Rep. Jon Nelson of Wolford for the other house seat in that district.
Earn Beanie Babies
Minnewaukan Success For All students got a treat this year when Janelle Soderstrom, owner of Creative Impressions in Devils Lake, donated more than 100 Beanie Babies to the school. Students could choose a beanie baby as a reward after completing 20 days of reading homework. Many students earned one or two Beanie Babies, but the following students have earned three Beanie Babies because they’ve read their reading homework 60 or more days. Left to right, back row, are Rachael Tollefson, Majenta Nelson and Errin Ambers. Middle row: Lacey Grann, Jamie Buckmier, Heather Miller and Darian Charboneau. Front row: J.J. Duty, Brandon Cartier and Brett O’Connell.
Take part in contest
Twenty-two 4-H’ers took part in the communication arts, consumer choices and project expo competition held April 1 at the Minnewaukan School. Project expo participants were, left to right, Preston Gilderhus, pre-teen grand champion; Ben Backstrom, pre-teen reserve champion; Jakob Schmid, pre-teen blue ribbon; Anne Backstrom, teen grand champion; Katie Rice, pre-teen honorable mention; Kristine Keller, teen reserve champion; and Janna Rice, teen honorable mention. Judges were Janna Benson, Amy Grotte, Angie Walen and Ellen Salisbury, all of Minnewaukan, and Gary Wald of Maddock.
Communication arts participants were, left to right, front row: Caleb Johnson, cloverbud participation award; Ashley Risovi, reserve champion pre-teen interpretive reading; Kya Knoke, blue ribbon pre-teen interpretive reading; Jessica Johnson, blue ribbon pre-teen interpretive reading; Katie Rice, grand champion pre-teen interpretive reading; and Megan Wald, who, with Katie Rice, won the grand champion pre-teen ribbon for their commercial. Back row: Ben Backstrom, grand champion pre-teen demonstration; Jordan Backstrom and Paul Rice, grand champion teen commercial; Anne Backstrom, honorable mention short takes; Kristine Keller, blue ribbon teen interpretive reading; Jenae Johnson, honorable mention pre-teen interpretive reading. Not pictured is Andy Backstrom, teen reserve champion short takes.
Consumer choices participants were, left to right, kneeling: Kevin Slaubaugh, 8-10-year-old reserve champion; Kelvin Slaubaugh, 8-10-year-old grand champion; Katie Rice, 8-10-year-old blue ribbon; Janna Rice, teen grand champion; Megan Wald, pre-teen blue ribbon; and Kristine Keller, teen blue ribbon. Standing, left to right, Jesse Hoffert, 8-10-year-old blue ribbon; Cody Hoffert, teen blue ribbon; Logan Gunderson, pre-teen reserve champion; Ben Backstrom, pre-teen blue ribbon; Preston Gilderhus, pre-teen grand champion; Anne Backstrom, teen blue ribbon; Kimberly Randle, teen reserve champion; and Jenae Johnson, pre-teen blue ribbon.