Running on Greens
National Bakery uses biodiesel-diesel mix for fleet
Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer
The next time you see a National Bakery truck making a delivery, it may just be running on a combination of diesel and biodiesel, which has been processed at the company's Osborne Road, St Andrew, premises.
For the past five years, National has been using the leftover vegetable oil in which some of its products - such as peanut and cashew - have been cooked, to supplement the fuel for its fleet. It now has a pump dedicated to biodiesel and there have been times when company CEO Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson has used the more environmentally friendly fuel in his personal vehicle.
This is in keeping with the company's decision to go green. To that end, it has just completed an overhaul of is fuel station. Fleet Manager Michael Lodenquai explained, "We have gone completely environmentally friendly because it has the outer tubing in the pipe going from the tank. It's a double-wall tank. We have sensors to tell us if there is a leak, so it doesn't go underground. If there is leak in the tank, it might seep in the ground and go into the water, so we are trying to fix all the things from yesteryear, trying to be on the cutting edge of the future."
Using equipment he admits is in need of an upgrade, Lodenquai noted that the company is able to process an average of 40 gallons of biodiesel every 36 hours and this is used in six of the trucks in a 50:50 mix with the regular diesel. What started as a hobby for the fleet manager has now evolved into a campaign for alternative fuel, given the pollution of the air from fossil fuels.
However, he's suggesting that people educate them themselves on mixing fuel before going into it.
"Some people use the raw vegetable oil and they'll have to make adjustments to heat it and thing because the oil gets solid; the biodiesel now is more pure. Only thing is, if you use it in an old vehicle what happens is the first couple thousand miles you might have to do filter changes because it cleans out the system, so it will clog it up. After that, you are fine."
It was a curiosity that got Lodenquai started on this road, after reading up on the popularity of biodiesel in North America and Europe.
"The oil that we use over at the plant, we used to dispose of that and then it came to me, 'Why don't we use it because I'd been reading up articles on the biodiesel?'
"So I realised we could try and use the oil that we have, and we bought a small kit. I wasn't sure it was going to work; I was a bit skeptical," he recalled.
"Anyway, I read up about it and ... and then started to go step by step, and taught myself how to do it. They send videos with it and I went back until I got the correct procedure. So I did the first batch, and second batch, and then we got progressively better," Lodenquai said. That was more than five years ago.
Lodenquai admits that the fuel-production process is somewhat time-consuming because of the need to extract the water from the mixture. In fact, the process can take from 24-36 hours, and much of this time is spent doing the necessary tests during the process, but he is - as usual - still reading and staying abreast of developments.
"Throughout the years, they have a done an automated one (processor), and you can make a 40-gallon batch in 12 hours," Lodenquai shared with a chuckle.
The National Bakery fleet manager admitted to having his eye on one of those processors and, if he gets his wish of acquiring one, biodiesel production will really be cooking at National.
Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson sometimes uses the diesel-biodiesel mix in his personal vehicle.
Photo by Christopher Serju
Michael Lodenquai, fleet manager at National Bakery.