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Greenfield biodiesel plant to start operation, aims to produce 2M gallons of fuel per year

A western Massachusetts biodiesel facility is finally getting off the ground and beginning production this week.

A series of connected large silver tanks sit inside a giant room in a non-descript building in a Greenfield industrial park. A pump circulates used cooking oil from restaurants and cafeterias.

"You put a gallon of used cooking oil in," said Lynn Benander, who is the president of Northeast Biodiesel. "You mix it with methanol and methylate and strip away the glycerin from that molecule and you're left with biodiesel."

She said the fuel can be used to power vehicles and heat buildings, and that's it's better for the environment.

"(It) cuts down the particulate matter so less air pollution and cuts down the carbon emissions by 75 to 80%," she said.

Officials said the plant in the Greenfield Industrial Park was fully operational in 2018, but did not have the funding to launch operations. In the past few months the company was able to secure the $1.3 million in loans from various organizations in order to begin operating.

Benander said the plan is to produce almost two million gallons of biodiesel a year in the near term and more beyond that.

She said customers are already lined up to buy the end product, including large institutions and local home heating oil dealers.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.