Sunflower Biofuel Production

Bioenergy Research Initiative Grant Program

The Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility (NRRRF) received a $100,000 grant to research biofuel production for use on municipal lands. The facility manages waste land application and biosolids treatment. Biofuel advances help the City and other North Carolina municipalities meet the goal of reducing petroleum fuels used in the state by 10 percent. It will also reduce competition between food and biosolids for prime agriculture land.

In 2010, staff planted 27 acres of sunflowers on effluent-irrigated land to determine if they were a viable crop for biofuel production. Through the processing of the seed, the City was able through a third party, Piedmont Biofuels, Inc. to produce 1,258 gallons of biodiesel. Challenges of the project were the cost of crushing the seed, lack of local processors and transportation costs. 

These challenges led staff to re-evaluate the project. Staff decided to develop a biofuel processing unit to use for educational and demonstration purposes. The project also received $65,000 from the City's Sustainability Fund. The Public Utilities Department provided staff and extra funding. The City has completed the acquisition and has an operational Mobile Biofuel Processor. The total cost estimate excluding staff resources was $178,350.

At first, the processor was to be in an existing building at the NRRRF. Attention turned to a mobile processor due to escalating costs for building renovations.  Quick research revealed that New Earth Fabricators, Inc. created a mobile, trailer mounted processor for Polk County Schools. The City contracted with New Earth Fabricators for the design, fabrication and training of a mobile processor.  Staff determined a tractor trailer was the size needed to self-contain the processor. This allows the mobile processor to produce biofuels at any location. This also facilitates use of the processor for educational purposes. The City designed a custom “wrap” for the trailer that notes its purpose and the partnerships involved.

Lead Department:
Service Categories:
Resource RecoveryEnvironmental Services Program