Kansas Salt Mine Becomes First to Use 100% Biodiesel

Kansas Salt Mine Becomes First to Use 100% Biodiesel

The Hutchinson Salt Co. claims to be the first mine of any kind to use 100% biodiesel, also known as B100.

Biodiesel is a renewable, alternative fuel to petroleum diesel, and is made from soybeans grown in the United States as well as other fats and vegetable oils. It burns cleaner, reduces emissions like particulate matter by 47% and cuts carcinogens 80-90%. Biodiesel is sulfur-free, non-flammable and biodegrades faster than sugar.

Air quality is a critical issue for workers who use diesel engines in confined spaces, and using biodiesel fuel in mining equipment is one way to help protect their health.

“We use B100 biodiesel in everything underground that runs on diesel,” said Max Liby, VP of Manufacturing for the mine. “The main benefit is we’ve cleaned up soot in the air and have cut particulates. Workers, particularly the operator of the loaders, like the soy biodiesel much better because they say particulates do not get in their nostrils and the air is noticeably cleaner. Also, lubricity is much greater than if we used regular diesel fuel, so the injector pumps and injectors work more efficiently. The soy biodiesel actually cleans the injectors,” he said.

Hutchinson Salt Co. began using biodiesel in June 2003, and used 31,229 gallons of B100 in the first year.

“Biodiesel is a great fuel for use inside mines,” said Harold Kraus, soybean farmer and NBB Director. “It is made from a natural product, so the air mine workers breathe from B100 is also natural. Besides cutting emissions, biodiesel also has a pleasant odor when it burns,” he said.

“Soybeans are important to Kansas not only for the vegetable oil biodiesel comes from, but also for the animal industry, as Kansas is the largest producer of packed beef in the United States,” Kraus said. “The animal industry is the largest user of soybean meal, for its feed, plus the waste fat from animals can be made into biodiesel,” he said.

Biodiesel is the first and only alternative fuel to have fully completed the Heath Effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. Dr. Bailus Walker, MPH, past president of the American Lung Association of Washington, D.C., said, “There is a recognition that petroleum-based products, with their toxins, are affecting the health of the people. There’s no question about it; the epidemiological data is there, and it is solid. We need to explore in a more aggressive way alternative fuels. I would strongly recommend, as a health professional, we take a hard look at what is being accomplished with biodiesel.”

The salt mine is one of more than 500 fleets using biodiesel. That number is expected to continue to rise, in part due to a biodiesel tax incentive bill that will take effect as law on January 1. The tax incentive should make biodiesel more accessible to the general public as it will significantly narrow the cost gap between biodiesel and regular diesel fuel, which will in turn fuel demand and supply.

Other biodiesel users include the Missouri Department of Transportation, all four branches of the military, NASA, Harvard University, the National Park Service, U.S. Postal Service, L.L. Bean and others. About 300 retail filling stations make various biodiesel blends available to the public, and more than 1,000 petroleum distributors carry it nationwide. Biodiesel offers similar fuel economy, horsepower and torque to petroleum diesel while providing superior lubricity.

The Hutchinson Salt Company’s main product is highway salt for inclement weather. Clients include the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Illinois, and the city of Chicago.