2014 Collective Biodiesel Conference Update

I had a chance to attend this years Collective Biodiesel Conference held in beautiful Pittsboro, North Carolina. This years shindig was put on by none other than the world famous Piedmont Biofuels & crew!

Lyle Estill along with Bob Armantrout & the rest of the gang spit shined the plant, cleaned up the digs, and rolled out the red carpet to welcome over 100 people to what I like to think of as the “Biodiesel Mecca” of small scale Biodiesel.

Piedmont’s Biodiesel Plant

The conference kicked off with two pre-conference activities. One was a day long workshop on producing Biodiesel from Enzymes by the famous Enzyme Biodiesel Goddess Rachel Burton and the other involved an incredible tour of the Catawba County Eco Complex.

I chose to go to the daylong Enzymatic Biodiesel Workshop & had a blast! First we had some classroom time learning all about the Enzymatic process as well as two additional presentations by an expert on Renewable Diesel and another expert on Biodiesel’s Progress in Europe (Absolutely Fascinating!)

Then it was time to hit the lab & make some Biodiesel from Enzymes! (Oh yeah baby! We’re gonna make the good stuff!)

After we played in the lab it was time for a tour of the world famous Piedmont Biofuels Plant (oh yeah!)

This is a shot of Rachel’s experimental Enzymatic Biodiesel Production Skid

Here’s some awesome shots of their processing tanks:

And some of their awesome tankage out back (yeah, I know, I’m a sucker for big tanks).

And yes, they still have a carboy or two of the good stuff laying around (what’s Biodiesel without a few cubies, right?)

After the plant tour it was time for dinner at a local diner where we also had the pleasure of seeing a Pecha Kucha. This is where a person has to present a series of 20 slides while taking no more than 20 seconds per slide. It was quite interesting to see.

They also held a naming contest for the official “drink” for the Collective Biodiesel Conference. Here Bob Armantrout is measuring the audience applause over the various names submitted.

Something with the words “Barenaked” in it’s title won….go figure!

While there, I had a chance to rub shoulders with some great friends in Biodiesel.
Here’s Dara Lor (2013 CBC Director) and Leon Griffin (a.k.a. Mr. WVO Designs) with Tami, Lyle’s wife.

Here’s a shot with two of my awesome customers!

On the right side, gray shirt – Scott Kayser, black shirt Peter Neofytides. Kris Kelley f Kelley Green Biofuels is on the left as well.

Here’s a shot of Camille Armantrout (Bob’s wife) along with Glenn Rodes (a.k.a. Fuelfarmer on Infopop) and Bob Armantrout

Then it was off to bed for the evening….

The next morning, bright and early the conference kicked off at Central Carolina Community College!

As the crowd gathered in, the fun got started….

That’s Ron Kotrba, Editor of Biodiesel Magazine on the front row! Yep! It was a literal “whose who” in Biodiesel-land!

In true form, I had drug along a host of camera’s to archive the whole event too….here’s a shot of me doing what I do best at these conferences…snapping pictures!

Lyle welcomed us all to the fun and away we went!

Our keynote speaker was Bob Armantrout who entertained us by teaching us all about the 6 stages of Biodiesel an enthusiast goes through. Titled “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been!”, his presentation was insightful, introspective, humorous and was loved by all!

Be sure & check out the online archive for a link to the video of this awesome presentation at Collectivebiodiesel.org. If you’ve been around Biodiesel for any length of time, you’ll definitely be able to identify with it! I loved it!

The conference ran in two tracks throughout the two days & we got to pick & choose which topics interested us the most.

My first session I attended was by Link Shumaker & Kris Kelley on Kelley Green Biofuels. Really cool stuff!

Next was a session I’d been looking forward to since I heard the conference was going to be at Piedmont. It was a tour by Andy McMahan of the colleges Environmental Program facilities. Years ago I worked with Andy & Bob over the phone on their Biodiesel Production Room and I was really excited to see it in person!
The first stop was their on site farm and then a tour around the campus showing off all the cool environmentally friendly things they’re doing (green roof, solar panels, onsite water treatment system.

And, we have the token “Biodiesel Powered” pickup truck too! Go Bio!

Here’s the pictures of what I was waiting to see! Their Biodiesel Production Room!

Seed Press:

Yours truly by their BioPro 190:

A SpringPro T76 Dry Wash Tower System:

A set of our Arbor Fabricating Dry Wash Towers:

A Cold Clear Filter Setup:

A sweet stainless steel Biodiesel Reactor:

Yep! I was like a kid in a candy store!

They even power their on-site catering truck with Biodiesel!

After that we had a chance to tour their Biodiesel Testing Lab.

Gas Chromatographs (Total & Free Glycerin)

Karl Fisher Titrator (Water Testing)

Extremely Accurate Scale

Centrifuge (Water & Insoluables)

Flash Point Tester (Methanol Levels in Biodiesel)

Temperature Controlled Vibrating Mixer (great for Enzymatic Bio)

And then it was time for lunch..or shall we say Time To Chat with some of your biodiesel buddies!

Jason Burroughs & Rachel Burton

Rudy Pruszko, Kris Kelley, Jeremy Ferrel

Ron Kotrba (Biodiesel Magazine) and friends

Me with Camille Armantrout

And then there were the diesel vehicles! These conferences are like a diesel groupie party!

Being an Isuzu P’up Nut, I immediately gravitated toward the two diesel P’ups that were there:

And lots more diesels!

Yep! Lots & lots of diesels!

After lunch, I attended Dr. Roland Verhe’s presentation on European Biodiesel Progress (Amazing! Absolutely and utterly amazing!)046-IMG_4706

A little later the whole group was invited out to Piedmont Biofuels for a tour of the place by none other than Lyle Estill himself!

On your way to the plant, you get to see a Lorax…on Lorax Lane of course!


Lyle showed us around the amazing complex that was complete with hydroponics, solar panels, and several other businesses.

Crops growing under the solar panels. Yep! Pretty cool!

Piedmonts fueling station

Yours truly standing next to one of their oil collection trucks

Yep! I’m a nut for tankage!

Here’s their fueling station for large trucks:

This plaque hangs just above the pump

Here’s a shot of their in-house testing lab

This cool thing was hanging out in the yard!

Lyle even has a banana tree that grows in the complex!

After seeing the plant, we had a chance to check out one of Lyle’s newest ventures….their distillery!

Then it was over to the bar for a tasting of some of their fine liquors

There was no root beer to be found here, so I held back but it was still a sweet place! However, it was a great time for some photo ops!

Here’s me with Rachel Burton

Me with Peter Neofytides, one of my awesome customers!

After the tour it was time for dinner and in true fashion, I was able to snag a bunch of pictures.

Here’s a few from the evening:

Leon Griffin, Jason Burroughs, myself, and a volunteer
We happen to all be wearing shirts from past conferences. The volunteer (whose name escapes me) had on this years t-shirt.

Bob Armantrout & Lyle Estill together

Myself with Dean Price

Rachel Burton with her son and two other participants

That evening we were entertained by a local A Capella group. Here’s a shot of them

Lyle also had this HUGE chess set there & Leon challenged me to a game of chess…

I suck, he won.

The next morning I had a chance to grab some more great pictures….

Brian & Scott Williams, Omaha Biofuels Coop

Dara Lor, Graydon Blair, Jonathan Mueser

Tom Leue of Yellow Biodiesel & VegHeat (we sell their Babington Balls)

Rylan Rodgers & Nic Bach, our awesome customers from East Coast Green Technologies

Jonathan Mueser, Link Shumaker, & Terry (Lyle’s wife)

David Thornton, Eric Henry, & Matt Rudolph

On Saturday, we kicked off another great round of awesome presentations!

The first one I went to was presented by Glenn Rodes a.k.a. fuelfarmer on the Infopop Biodiesel Forum

He showed us what Bob affectionately calls “Biodiesel Porn”, which are lots & lots of pictures of Canola, Camelina, and other oil seed crops growing on his incredible farm in Virginia.

Glenn has about 60 acres of land he’s dedicated to growing oil seed crops and over the six or seven years he’s been taking what he grows and reacting it into Biodiesel and sharing it on the infopop biodiesel forum. Just amazing!!! One of my many “Biodiesel hero’s”.

I had a chance to stay with Bob & Camille at their place & by luck of the draw Glenn was staying there too, which meant I got one on one time with this amazing guy! (it also meant I got lots of pictures of his biodiesel samples too, but we’ll show those off later).

After Glenns presentation I had a chance to attend Scott Williams amazing presentation on their coop they have in Omaha.

Once really cool thing these guys are doing is providing filtered waste vegetable oil to the Omaha Zoo Steam Engine (be still my heart! Yeah, I’m a steam junkie!)

Even the engineer that drives the train looks the part & is on board with it!

After attending Glenn’s presentation, I attended what to me was one of the most interesting and fascinating presentations at the whole conference. It was David Thornton’s presentation on new Oil Crops.

One of the “oil crops” that they discovered was the Black Soldier Fly (yes, you read right, FLIES!)

It seems that if you feed them pretty much, well, garbage, they’ll consume it and then go into a larvae state. It’s the larvae state that they crush and use for an oil source. Yep! Sounds nasty! Smelled pretty bad too, but the oil they harvest out of it makes great Biodiesel!

Talk about thinking outside the box! Absolutely fascinating!

The final presentation I attended was one done by Biodiesel expert Rudy Pruszko.

He’s one of the writers of the famous “Building a Successful Biodiesel Business” and is a presenter I saw last year and loved! His no nonsense approach on how to build a Biodiesel plant and produce the fuel is awesome!

If you’re ever looking for a Biodiesel consultant, this is your man! The guy knows his stuff!

With all the presentations completed, we headed over to Piedmont for a parade Biodiesel style and then enjoyed the music of the Bulltown Strutters while we chowed down on some fine southern cuisine!

We also got together for a big group shot too!

All in all, the conference was awesome! I had paid my flight to go to “Biodiesel Mecca” and was thrilled with what I saw and enjoyed! Absolutely amazing!!!

Before heading home, I had a chance to get a few more pictures at Bob’s place and took the traditional picture with their pet “Spot” Zebra out front.

I also had a chance to shoot some great pictures of Glenn’s Biodiesel samples as well!

And a few of Bob & Glen

I packed up my things, said goodbye to Camille & rode away from Bob’s place with some of the greatest Biodiesel memories I’ve ever had.

Talk about an absolutely amazing conference!
Wow! Just absolutely wow! I loved all of it & look forward to being able to do the conference again in a few years!

If you’d like to see the conference presentations, stop on by the Collective Biodiesel Archive at http://www.collectivebiodiesel.org

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