What began as a student research project in a Science Hall laboratory made another step toward changing how fuel will be produced in the future when Ever Cat Fuels held a grand opening for its biodiesel plant on Monday.
The plant, located about 40 miles north of campus in Isanti, Minn., is expected to produce about 3 million gallons of biodiesel per year when it is fully operational. The plant represents the first large-scale application of the Mcgyan process of making biodiesel.
The Mcgyan process, which came out of research by Augsburg undergraduate and Rhodes scholar Brian Krohn, creates biodiesel from waste oils. The process doesn’t require food stock to work and doesn’t create any waste products.
The Mcgyan process—named for alum and Ever Cat Fuels founder Clayton McNeff ’91, Augsburg chemistry professor Arlin Gyberg and Ever Cat scientist Ben Yan—has certainly attracted a lot of attention.
“When I see something like this, it’s everything that we talk about in Washington,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spoke at the grand opening.
McNeff said Ever Cat Fuels is already planning to expand its facility in Isanti. In addition, the company is licensing the Mcgyan process and it is expected that other biodiesel facilities will be built across the country and the world.
“It gives us a chance to grow our way to energy independence,” McNeff said.
Biodiesel was previously produced using the Mcgyan process in a test facility in Anoka. Production at the Isanti facility began earlier this month. Some of the biodiesel produced is being used to run the facility. Most is being sent to blenders, who combine biodiesel and traditional diesel fuel. The percentage of biodiesel required to be used in the diesel sold at pumps across Minnesota will rise in upcoming years.
McNeff also said that a donation to Augsburg’s planned Center for Science, Business and Religion will be made for each gallon of biodiesel sold.
Augsburg was well represented at the grand opening and Gyberg and President Paul Pribbenow were recognized. Several other members of the president’s cabinet, faculty members, and staff members were also in attendance. In addition, Augsburg music students provided entertainment before the event started.
WCCO TV anchor Don Shelby was the master of ceremony for the event that had about 150 people in attendance. Shelby summed up the importance of the day.
“Energy change has begun in this room,” Shelby said. “This is incredible on almost every conceivable level. The process is carbon neutral, it doesn’t use food, there are no chemicals and without waste. We’re sitting on top of proof of the future of energy in America.”
Read the StarTribune’s coverage of the opening by Neal St. Anthony.