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Tulsa: Biodiesel Capital of the World?

In Tulsa, we used to be the oil capital, but could we someday be the biodiesel capital? That's the dream of one new company that says it can make biodiesel better than anyone else. When people say biodiesel, you might think of those free spirits who drive modified cars to restaurants to get the grease from their grease traps. Well, think again. The News On 6’s Steve Berg reports biodiesel is going corporate, and Tulsa-based Biodiesel Technologies is looking to cash in.

You can look at it as kind of a mini-refinery. Although, Biodiesel Technologies’ Martha Hyde says refinery is kind of a dirty word in their industry, literally and figuratively.

"It's a reaction. That's the science behind making biodiesel. It's transesterification," Hyde said.

Reactors can make biodiesel from lots of different things, soybean oil, canola oil, a tropical plant called jatropha, which is normally considered a pesky weed, and turn any of them into biodiesel.

With a few modifications, it can even do it from animal fats, like that restaurant grease that gets so much of the biodiesel spotlight.

Hyde says what makes their machine different is that it does it faster, using less energy than their competitors, which makes the process more cost effective than it's been up to this point.

"So it's lower capital costs, lower operating costs, better, more affordable mousetrap,” Hyde said. "We're comfortable saying we have the most efficient biodiesel production system available."

How they do it exactly is a trade secret and probably above our heads anyway, and time will tell if the company's sales pitch catches on. But in just one month since they started making them though, they've sold seven of the reactors and plan to sell dozens next year at more than $1 million a pop.

Hyde says biodiesel is an easy sell because it mixes so well with existing infrastructure.

"The advantage that it has over ethanol is that if a gas station decides that they want to start selling biodiesel, they can put biodiesel in the regular tank with their regular diesel,” said Hyde. “It's called splash-blending and they're selling biodiesel."

Biodiesel cannot be used in gasoline engines of course, but it works just fine in a conventional diesel engine. In fact, it's much cleaner and has much less pollution. It can be mixed in any amount with conventional diesel.

Watch the video: Local Company Hopes To Put Tulsa At The Top Of The Biodiesel World
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