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Biodiesel plant looks east for raw materials

Fri., Feb. 2, 2007

Washington state’s new biodiesel production facility will be looking over the Cascades for more of its raw materials.

The Imperium Renewables refinery in Grays Harbor said Thursday it had signed a contract to buy 1 million gallons of canola oil from Natural Selection Farms in Sunnyside. John Plaza, Imperium president, announced the contract in Washington, D.C., where he was attending a congressional conference on renewable energy.

Canola is one of many vegetable oils that can be turned into biodiesel, which can replace petroleum-based diesel in automobiles, trucks, buses and other vehicles’ engines.

The canola oil will be turned into 1 million gallons of biodiesel, and represents 1 percent of the vegetable oil the facility expects to buy from around the world in 2007, Plaza said. He wouldn’t reveal the value of the contract with Natural Selection, saying only that it was “a multimillion-dollar deal.”

Natural Selection operates a seed-crushing facility in Sunnyside, with the crush seed used for livestock feed.

Imperium will pay a slight premium for the canola from Sunnyside, but will save on shipping costs compared to other sources of oil, Plaza said. It needs a total of 100 million gallons of vegetable oil per year, so farmers thinking of switching to canola would have “lots of market potential,” he added.

The contract is proof that “the fuel supply for America’s future can be grown in the back yard,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said.

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