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Biodiedel co-op fueled up and ready to roll

New pump technology is being primed at the Cowichan Bio-diesel Co-op that should allow the group to create a unified system to track sales and memberships. - courtesy Cowichan Biodiesel Co-op
New pump technology is being primed at the Cowichan Bio-diesel Co-op that should allow the group to create a unified system to track sales and memberships.
— image credit: courtesy Cowichan Biodiesel Co-op

Every cent counts to compete with gas companies.

So folks with the Cowichan Biodiesel Co-operative and Cowichan Energy Alternatives are cheering a recent technology-contest win helping fund cutting-edge point-of-sale pump gear to revolutionize B.C.’s string of biofuel co-ops.

Brian Roberts of Cowichan’s co-op was delighted R&D into the his firm’s prototype equipment was recently primed with $30,000 in cash and management costs from Victoria’s Catalyst social-enterprise competition.

That April 2 win saw Cowichan co-op’s Hassaan Rahim, and B.C. Biofuels Network director Adam Kreek — a former Olympic oarsman — successfully pitch the Dragon’s Den-style contest, then give the proceeds toward locally developing the biodiesel pump.

By May’s end, Roberts expected his 200-member co-op’s biodiesel pumping equipment — a high-tech keypad with fuel-measuring and accounting software — to be installed at Bings Creek for members, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s diesel-vehicle fleet.

Next, co-op pumps used by members at Cowichan Petroleum Sales on Allenby Road would be upgraded to “talk” with nozzle gear at Bings.

“We’re creating one unified system to keep track of sales and memberships.

“This is a system all B.C. biofuel co-ops can use.”

Cowichan’s colleague co-ops exist in Nelson, Vancouver, and Victoria.

“We’re trying to create an easy way for everyone to get fuel,” he said of his co-op making biodiesel at Bings from waste cooking oil “and we’re creating the technology so all co-ops can share.”

Cowichan’s co-op also aims to develop biogas and ethanol fuels for gas vehicles to help scrub Cowichan’s relatively high carbon footprint.

“Over 70% of emissions in the Cowichan Valley are from driving, with no way to reduce that; that’s a really high number.

“Victoria’s under 50% of carbon emissions. We need to get that down, so this is a private and public partnership to reduce that,” Roberts said.

Duncan council apparently agreed.

It recently approved its environment committee recommendations to give Cowichan Energy Alternatives a $4,000 grant-in-aid to fund a video promoting the group’s Community Carbon Marketplace plan.

The city also backed giving CEA a $3,500 grant to promote increased use of biofuel through shared blended-pump, and point-of-sale technology.

The co-op is also using the $15,000 in Catalyst cast from Van City, plus $15,000 in management services from MMP, to develop its pump gauge.

The co-op has also asked the CVRD for development funding.

To bust Cowichan’s carbon, co-ops must reinvent the pump-gauge wheel because buying equipment from oil companies isn’t practical or affordable, he signalled of high prices and proprietary ownerships.

“Gas stations all have point-of-sale systems, but you can’t get higher blends of biofuels there.

“We’re basically creating our own system.”

The new pump equipment could allow co-ops to work with some gas stations and upgrade and standardize pumps.

“It’s very expensive to build gas stations. Once we finish, we’ll be able to put in a pump at a fraction of the cost by partnering with private and public locations,” said Roberts.

“We provide biofuel, they provide regular diesel, and this lets buyers mix to whatever specs they need to reach warrantees. “We’re looking at existing systems and barriers to breaking into new markets.”

Roberts’ co-op is also wants waste cooking oil from cruise ships, BC Ferries and elsewhere to fill tanks with low/no emission biodiesel.

“We’re creating a green economy in Cowichan that wouldn’t have existed before.

“If banks invested a fraction of their profits into green technology and social initiatives, this would be a different world.”

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