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Montana is Bioenergy Country

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Biofuels production is an important component of Montana's energy policy. Biofuels production will create new markets for agricultural products, reduce our state and nation's dependence on imported oil, attract investment and create jobs in economically-distressed rural Montana.


Biomass is organic material that comes primarily from plants. It contains stored energy that plants get from the sun through photosynthesis. Biomass is a renewable energy source that can be produced from crops, garbage, manure and wood.

When biomass is burned it releases its stored energy and can be used to power steam electricity plants. Currently biomass provides about 3 percent of the energy in the United States. It doesn't pollute the air as much as fossil fuels and it doesn't produce pollutants such as sulfur. The carbon dioxide that is emitted from burning biomass is nearly the same amount that was captured by the plant during photosynthesis.

Below are some biofuels/mass projects under development and/or currently operating in the state.

Earl Fisher Biodiesel

 This biodiesel plant located in Chester began operations in 2006 and has facilities for both seed crushing and biodiesel manufacturing. Their current facilities are capable of crushing 40,000 gallons of oil and producing 250,000 gallons of biodiesel per year. Expansion plans are to expand capacity to produce up to 1 million gallons of biodiesel per year. Current production uses camellia and canola seed for feed stock and the product is marketed locally. In July of 2010, Earl Fisher began supplying biodiesel to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (BNSF) at the Havre Depot. The fuel is being tested at the MSU-Northern Bio-Energy Center with one switch train running on a B20 blend (20% biodiesel) and another engine running on regular diesel. Earl Fisher expects to supply BNSF with 24,000 gallons of biodiesel over the one-year study.

Sustainable Oils

Senators Baucus and Tester, joined with Targeted Growth, Inc. (TGI), a renewable energy bioscience company, and Green Earth Fuels, a vertically integrated renewable biodiesel energy company, to announce the formation of a joint venture called Sustainable Oils, Inc. The new venture is capable of producing up to 100 million gallons of camelina-based biodiesel, launching the single largest U.S. contract for the unique biodiesel-specific feedstock. Nearly all of the initial camelina produced for this project is expected to be grown in Montana. In 2009 and 2010, Sustainable Oils supplied the US Air Force with 100,000 gallons of camelina-based jet fuel. In March 2010, Sustainable Oils moved into an expanded facility to meet their growing demand and increase their research capabilities.

Montana Microbial Products

Montana Microbial Products (MMP) is commercializing a process using barley to produce fuel ethanol and a high-value protein concentrate. The barley protein concentrate (BPC) is a fundamental breakthrough in one of the most difficult issues facing the aquaculture industry – developing a cost effective plant protein to replace fish meal, the primary protein ingredient for farmed fish. MMP worked with Dr. Rick Barrows of the USDA/Agriculture Research Service “Trout Grains Project” to establish BPC value as a protein ingredient in feeds for farmed trout and salmon. MMP had crucial grant support for the project from the Montana Department of Commerce, Board of Research and Commercialization and from the Montana Department of Agriculture Growth Through Agriculture Program.

Algae Aqua-Culture Technology (AACT)

Algae Aquaculture Technologies of Whitefish recently received a $350,000 grant from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to build a commercial algae processing plant that will convert waste wood chips to energy and organic fertilizer. The process uses a greenhouse based algae growth system and an anaerobic biodigester to transform a blend of wood waste and algae into high-value methane for power generation, as well as significant amounts of organic fertilizer. The greenhouse will be built on the grounds of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. in a joint venture of the two companies.

Montana Advanced Biofuels

Permits have been filed with DEQ for a 126 million gallon per year wheat and barley ethanol plant to be located in Great Falls. The company is currently reviewing technology providers, and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors. In addition, the developers have begun to secure financing including city/county funds, DOE loan guarantee, other federal programs, and private financing. The project passed Phase I for the DOE Guaranteed Loan program and submitted their Phase II application in December 2010. The company was granted it's air quality permit from Montana Department of Environmental Quality in March of 2012. The project is expected to create up to 700 construction jobs and once completed it will employ about 100 people.

Montana's Objectives

Montana's Assets

Converting Biomass to Fuel

The U.S. DOE Biomass Program develops technology for conversion of biomass (plant-derived material) to valuable fuels, chemicals, materials and power, so as to reduce dependence on foreign oil and foster growth of biorefineries. Biomass is one of our most important energy resources. The largest U.S. renewable energy source every year since 2000, it also provides the only renewable alternative for liquid transportation fuel. Biomass use strengthens rural economies, decreases America's dependence on imported oil, avoids use of highly toxic fuel additives, reduces air and water pollution, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Today's biomass uses include ethanol, biodiesel, biomass power, and industrial process energy. Tomorrow, biorefineries or cluster companies will use advanced technology such as hydrolysis of cellulosic biomass to sugars and lignin and thermochemical conversion of biomass to synthesis gas for fermentation and catalysis of these platform chemicals to produce slates of biopolymers and fuels.