The Portland Development Commission has released a report they commissioned on the availability of feedstock for a potential metro-area biodiesel refinery capable of producing one half million gallons annually.
The winner: Canola, which can be grown in the Willamette Valley or in Eastern Oregon. The report is a great primer on seed crop production, and I learned a few things:
- Canola is a brassica, in the same family as cabbage and brocolli.
- Because canola seed is such a low-value product, you can’t afford to transport it very far, so the oil will need to be extracted as close to the farm as possible (the oil could then be shipped to a refinery).
- Small scale extraction is only economical on small screw presses.
- The ‘meal’ left over after pressing is high-protein and great to feed to dairy cows.
- Canola works well in a crop rotation with grass seed, and even offers some productivity benefits for the grass seed crop.
- The econmics are still pretty marginal.
Most of the region’s biodiesel today comes from midwestern soybeans, so this would be a great step toward local production.