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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Community-scale biodiesel producer begins operations in Massachusetts

Inside Northeast Biodiesel, which utilizes a FuelMatic processor from U.K.-based Green Fuels Ltd. to convert used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel. (Photo: Northeast Biodiesel)

Northeast Biodiesel, a community-scale biodiesel production facility in Greenfield, Massachusetts, has begun manufacturing biodiesel after years of development and funding issues. The company is holding a launch celebration Oct. 1.

The plant, which utilizes a FuelMatic processor made by U.K.-based Green Fuels Ltd., converts used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel with the capacity to make 1.75 million gallons per year (mgy).

“A couple years ago the board asked the Northeast Biodiesel and Co-op Power lenders if we could sell the plant,” said Lynn Benander, president of Northeast Biodiesel and Co-op Power. “But then, Wellspring and LEAF helped us see how the investors and lenders could benefit more if we were to restructure their loans and investments and secure new capital to launch.”

In June, the company announced it had secured a loan for more than $1.3 million to complete start-up of its plant, which was under development for years.

“Over the last few months, we borrowed $1.364 million, hired and trained staff, and the staff—under the leadership of Rick Durepo, a seasoned chemical plant manager, and Dale Bourbeau, a talented plant operator—have combed through every inch of tank, pipe, pump and sensor to get the processor up and running,” Benander said. “After so many years of extraordinary effort, fund raising and patience, it’s now finally our time to shine.”

The plant, located in the Greenfield Industrial Park, was fully operational in 2018 but did not have the funding to hire workers or purchase feedstock, according to Northeast Biodiesel.

“The process of raising new funding required patience and understanding from the existing investors, who are primarily local individuals making small investments to improve the local economy,” the company stated. “As board chair Sam Bartlett explained, ‘Most conventional bottom line-oriented businesses would not have persevered this long, but our board and our investors and lenders are really determined to have more local control over our energy production, and to provide good local jobs. It is especially exciting to have a plant that is staffed by people who will have an ownership stake in the business.’”

The lenders in this latest funding round were The Life Initiative, Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, Local Enterprise Assistance Fund, Franklin County Community Development Corp., Cooperative Fund of the Northeast, and other community members and stakeholders.

Northeast Biodiesel plans to eventually double its fuel-production capacity to 3.5 mgy.

In June, Northeast Biodiesel shared that it has contracted with NEB Workers Cooperative, a worker/owner cooperative, to provide services for the plant’s operation, with the intent that the of NEB Workers Cooperative will become owners of the plant, along with Northeast Biodiesel’s majority owner, Co-op Power, a renewable-energy cooperative owned by consumers from around New England and New York.



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