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Keystone Biodiesel Plant Expands

Keystone Biodiesel Plant Expands

Erie-based Hero BX betting on farm-grown camelina and canola.

Hero BX, already one of the largest U.S. biofuel producers, recently received a fresh financial injection for biodiesel expansion. Formerly called Lake Erie Biofuels, the company won a $1.64 million grant to expand production by 10 million gallon per year.

Company officials expect to grow its use of farm-raised feedstocks, which could benefit farmers in New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. "We anticipate that we'll be producing 20 to 25% of our biodiesel using the second-generation feedstock, camelina within the next two to three years," says CEO Leonard Kosar.

"Unlike many other companies that are simply developing technologies to use second and third generation feedstocks to produce biofuels someday, we're profitably producing biofuels today." Currently, most of the biodiesel produced at the plant comes from waste soybean and food oils and biodegradable greases.

BIG IN BIOFUELS: Hero BX CEO Leonard Kosar (left) and company founder Samuel Black have built the business

into what's already one of the top five biofuel producers in the United States.

Hero BX expects to boost its annual output of low-cost, high quality biodiesel from 45 million gallons to 55 million gallons. But as Kosar adds, "[America] won't be able to produce the next generation of biodiesel and ethanol if we abandon first-generation biofuels producers." The grant money is actually federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (Stimulus Bill) dollars funneled through the state's Green Energy Works! program.

Hero BX is working with Penn State Extension agronomists and seed industry experts such as Ernst Seeds of Meadville, Pa., to pioneer use of camelina and possibly canola as a biofuel feedstock. Camelina, for instance, grows in sub-optimum soil, doesn't need water or fertilizer and produces seven times more oil per bushel than soybeans.

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