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Biodiesel plant says production equipment was deadly

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ANN MARIE AMES
December 12, 2007
— The owners of a new biodiesel plant are suing a manufacturer for equipment they say was deadly.

Midwest Biofuel, 125 Industrial Drive, Clinton, has filed a complaint against ECR Biodiesel Atlanta.


According to court documents, Midwest Biofuel, which was built in late 2006 and early 2007, leased equipment capable of producing biodiesel at the rate of 10 gallons per minute or 5 million gallons per year from ECR.


The lease included assistance from ECR to start up and maintain the equipment as well as design the plant.


Midwest Biofuel said ECR’s services and designs did not comply with Wisconsin requirements for ventilation and other safety factors, and ECR’s start up instructions “would have resulted in a plant that would have killed everyone in the building within hours of starting operations.”


ECR employees tried to start the new equipment four times, according to court documents.


The plant has been out of production for four months, said Midwest Biofuel President Mirza Ahmed, who practices medicine in Macon, Ga. He is in the process of reverting the innovative “electro-chemical” process designed by ECR into a more traditional method of producing biodiesel.


In the traditional method, a chemical reaction between vegetable oil and a caustic material turns the oil into methyl esters, or biodiesel, Ahmed said. The process produces water and glycerin as waste.


Ahmed plans to produce 15,000 gallons per day of biodiesel in the near future. In the spring when he can build more storage, he wants to produce 30,000 gallons daily. That’s 10 million gallons per year.


Midwest Biodiesel will not be using soybean oil for production, Ahmed said, because the cost of soybean oil continues to skyrocket.


“Part of it is bean oil processing has gone out of reach,” Ahmed said. “It doesn’t make economic sense anymore.”


The delay caused by the ECR equipment has put Midwest Biofuel behind a year in its production plans, but Ahmed remains optimistic.


“We took a very long route to get it back to where we are,” Ahmed said. “But I think we are very close.”


The complaint accuses ECR of breaching a contract and a warranty and professional negligence. Midwest Biofuel seeks payment for damages and court costs.


The Gazette was unable to reach an ECR spokesperson for comment.



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