Method to reduce maintenance costs and the carbon footprint in land management
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A method of reducing maintenance costs and carbon footprints near/on roadways, airports, public and private right of ways, military areas, unused construction areas, government and subsidy lands by utilizing these areas for the growth of biofuel feedstock materials. Crops used for production of biofuels could be grown in or around these areas and processed into biofuels in the same general area. This process would produce lower exhaust emissions compared with fossil fuels, decrease cost of maintenance of roadways and public right of ways, decrease the United States dependence on foreign oil and decrease transportation costs of fuels to customers, alleviate pest pressures, reduce storm water runoff and help to control fire danger. This process includes, but is not limited to sustainable tillage growth of common biofuels feedstock crops including: canola, rape, mustard, camelina, sunflower; harvesting said crops and turning the biomass yield into biofuels.

Hanks, Dallas A. (Burley, ID, US)
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Dallas Hanks (Burley, ID, US)
What is claimed is:

1. A method for reducing maintenance costs and carbon footprints along regions including but not limited to areas associated with roadways, airports, public and private right of ways, military areas, unused construction areas, power line areas, government and subsidy lands comprising: Establishing biomass; Culturing biomass; Harvesting biomass; Conversion of Biomass into Biofuels.

2. A method for reducing maintenance costs and carbon footprints in areas described in claim 1, further comprising the conversion of said biomass on or near the harvesting equipment.



The present application claims the benefit of provisional application entitled “Freeways to Fuel: a novel approach to biofuels production”, assigned Ser. No. 60/878,228 filed Jan. 3, 2007, the content of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.


This invention relates generally to methods for producing biofuels. More specifically, the invention relates to a method for using biofuel crops to reduce maintenance costs and carbon footprint of areas by converting components of materials grown on grounds along roadways, runways, public and private right of ways, military areas, unused construction areas, government and subsidy lands into biofuels. The invention also includes a suggested method for processing biofuels as they are harvested in a mobile type situation.


The United States consumes billions gallons of petroleum based products each year. A majority of that energy comes from fossil fuels that have to be imported from other countries around the world. When these fuels are combusted, they not only release enormous amount of pollutants into the atmosphere causing smog, disease and distress, but add to the greenhouse gas content to the atmosphere. In addition to these environment concerns, global unrest and increasing demand have influenced fuel prices drastically upwards and affected people everywhere. This has become a national security issue for the United States.

Biofuels have been talked about since before the invention of the diesel engine. Their cost of production has kept them from being implemented until recent fluctuations in the crude oil market. Biofuels are energy sources converted from biomass-most commonly corn and soybeans. Examples of biofuels are biodiesel and ethanol. Uses for biofuels include but are not limited too

    • Cars & Trucks
    • Motorcycles/Mopeds
    • Boats, Ships & Subs
    • Trains & Planes
    • Tractors & Pumps
    • Generators/Welders
    • Heaters & Furnaces
    • Ranges & Ovens
    • Lanterns, barbeques, patio heaters
    • Air Conditioners
    • Lawnmowers
    • Chain Saws

Expansion of biofuel interest has increased in recent past. The economics of this present invention were not feasible until late. Due to this unique discovery, economics of biofuel production in the prescribed manner are now viable as exemplified by FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 of this document.

Corn grain is commonly mashed and used to produce ethanol. Currently, research is underway to use other biomass sources for biofuels production including switch grass, sawdust from paper mills, wood from orchard pruning's, green waste from urban areas, straw from grain crops and the list goes on.

With the blazing technological developments on the refining side of the biofuels process, the focus of this invention is to utilize and process biofuels in a more environmentally friendly, economically feasible and sustainable manner in areas that have been overlooked in the past. Currently, the majorities of biofuel sources such as vegetable oil are grown in the Midwestern part of the United States and transported great distances to be processed. For example, the fuel source such as soybean oil has to be grown in the Midwest and harvested by a machine there. The soybeans are then put into a truck where they are shipped to a storage holding facility. Next, they are commonly loaded again and transported to a pressing facility where the biomass is separated into solid and liquid phases. The solid phase can be used for further processing or used commonly for cattle feed. The liquid portion is then transported to a refining either locally or distantly to be made into biofuels such as biodiesel.

This invention introduces that the concept of biofuels sources being grown on local overlooked areas and be processed into biofuel precursors or even biofuel on the harvesting equipment or near the harvesting site reducing the need to handle the biomass several times in the production stream and reduce the need for transportation of several components in the process.

There are hundreds of thousands of acres of overlooked area along or near federal state and local roadways, military bases and airports in the United States that could be used for agronomic purposes in growing biofuels. The government pays farmers to let millions of acres of farm ground to lay dormant to support crop prices. These and other public and private lands translate into potential billons gallons of biofuel feedstock that could be grown on these areas that are largely now just cause maintenance/pest problems or lay idle. These roadsides and fallow farm lands harbor noxious weeds and take huge sums of money to mow and maintain. States and local growers are required to suppress weeds in these areas. With this invention, the cost to do conduct these activities can be minimized because they are part of the agronomic activities included in growing biofuel feedstocks.

If these lands were converted into biofuel producing lands, it would benefit in the fuel consumer in the following ways; local fuel production, reduced pollutants released into the air, decreased maintenance costs of lands, could be used by public land stewards or sold on the local market, reduction in the carbon footprint and greenhouse gases. Common biomass crops such as the brassica family exhibit the following characteristics:

    • Grown on marginal agricultural lands
    • Contain oil and biomass necessary for biofuel processing
    • Germination occurs rapidly after soil temperatures reach 38-40 F.

When growing these crops new and conventional methods of planting, fertilizing, weed control and harvest may be employed making them manageable, it is the area that are grown and the economic savings that will be a novel approach. As will be explained in greater detail herein below, the present invention provides a method whereby biomass grown on public lands such as roadway median and shoulders can be used to produce biofuels.


The present invention is a process reduce cost of maintenance along fallow grounds along roadways, runways, public and private right of ways, military areas, unused construction areas, government and subsidy lands to be used for biofuel production either onsite or remotely. To date, roadways, right of ways, and other idle lands have been a breeding ground for pests and overlooked for use as a biofuel growing area. This invention would put those areas to work growing biomass that can be converted into useful products such as fuels that can be sustainable, decreased emissions. This process initiates the production of these fuels from agronomical idle ground that often has to be maintained. This invention will decrease those maintenance costs while producing biofuel crops. Our process also allows for increased aesthetics with a mixture of plants grown improving roadside appearance. By using this system, fuel can be grown and processed in a more sustainable manner, decreasing need of transportation of feedstock from long distances such as in crude oil or current biofuel production, decrease maintenance costs and increase returns to local, state and federal land stewards.


FIG. 1-Model Showing Economics of Present Invention

FIG. 2-Model Showing Areas of Economic Savings of the Present Invention vs. Traditional Agronomic Production


Referring now to the invention in more detail, without limitation, the following details show the preferred method of decreasing maintenance costs and carbon footprints by growing biomass and processing it to biofuels. The biomass would be established on non traditional agronomic areas such as but not limited to; roadway shoulders and medians, airport runways and surrounding areas, public and private right of ways, military areas, unused construction areas, government and subsidy lands. The biomass would then be grown until, it is mature and ready for harvest. It will be harvested and processed for its fuel qualities and by products.

Utilizing this method will save current maintenance costs as shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2. FIG. 1 shows the planting of a biofuel feedstock crop along freeway shoulders resulting in the estimated yield would decrease the cost of maintenance of roadsides including mowing and controlling weeds to the state to $0.00/mile and in some models give back to the tax base. In addition to this savings, biofuels used from this invention, decrease the amount of polluting substances released by the vehicles utilizing the fuel from this process including public and private equipment. Also, the fuels produced by this invention will be utilized locally contributing to local economies and commerce. FIG. 2 shows why the crop can be grown at a decreased rate and what areas are the most significant savings to the state. A major reason for the savings is utilizing a growing area that has to be maintained and has been overlooked as a biofuel production area in the past.

Basic types of crops to be utilized in the production of biofuels for this invention include but are not limited too canola, camelina, safflower and rape. These are common crops capable of being grown in nearly all parts of the USA. They range in oil content from around 35-45% which is very useful for making biodiesel. They are also capable of being digested and making ethanol.

The method of engaging this process is:

    • 1. First, selection of site, planting seed and distributing other substances such as soil amendments, pesticides or other necessary materials. A seeding mechanism will be used to seed/fertilize the biomass crop into the soil substrate. The seed and other materials necessary for crop growth is metered out of the said mechanism at a prescribed rate to establish crops seeds in the growing substrate.
    • 2. Monitor conditions so that germination and crop maturity take place. If necessary employ equipment to distribute pesticides and other necessary materials. A fluid spraying mechanism may be used to distribute pesticide, fertilizer or other amendments to the biomass crop. The mechanism consists of a tank, pump and spray nozzles distributed laterally to cover a given area. The fluid is pumped from the tank through a set of hoses connected to the nozzles and delivered. This is an excellent way to minimize weeds in the growing area and decrease weed pressures of the surrounding area.
    • 3. After crop has matured, a combine harvesting mechanism may be employed to separate useable biomass from unusable and process the relevant plant parts such as fruits or seeds into oil with extraction equipment. It consists of a cutting mechanism, a threshing mechanism and a hopper to store the useable biomass in.

The biomass crop is cut with the cutting head, transferred to the threshing mechanism where the separation of biomass takes place and then to the storage container. In another embodiment, the biomass can be harvested and taken for processing in a biomass to liquid methodology. This method employs the whole of the biomass harvested in being converted to biofuels. No oil separation is necessary.

    • 4. If an oil extraction mechanism is employed to separate oil from the biomass crop in one method, there are several types of methodologies to extract oil from biomass.

These include physical, chemical or thermal extractions methods. The extracted oil will be stored in a container while the other biomass will be placed in a separate location. In the preferred method, the extraction equipment may be attached on to the harvesting mechanism and extract oil directly from biomass as it is harvested. This will decrease transportation costs and time for separating the biomass.

    • 5. Current technology for refining the biomass oil into transesterified fuel consists of using a catalyst and alcohol in the presence of heat and or pressure. The oil is heated and the alcohol/catalyst mixture is added and mixed thoroughly. The mixture is allowed a reaction time. During the reaction process, the oil is transersterified. The resultant from this reaction is transesterified oil useable for fuel, and glycerol.
    • 6. In the future, a method may be employed upon further development of converting the biomass into fuel on the harvesting machine itself. This method would utilize an extraction and refining mechanism to turn the biomass crop into biodiesel or other biofuel as it is being harvested. Or in another embodiment, the biomass may be converted by a thermal platform technology.

The advantages of the present invention include, without limitation, reduce cost of maintenance for land holders, decrease carbon footprint by decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air from petroleum fuels, increase aesthetics in these areas, make more biofuels, control of noxious weeds, improve use for lands, decrease pests, provide jobs for the local economy and decentralize fuels production to increase national security by decreasing dependence on foreign oil.

It is well within the skill of a person in the technical field, upon becoming conversant with, or otherwise having knowledge of, the present invention, to select suitable combinations of components such as the mechanisms listed above, and the like, in view of the type of system being designed and/or constructed.

The above described embodiments are exemplitive, and the terminology is employed for illustration purposes and not limitation purposes. The present invention is not limited to the combinations and sub combinations illustrated herein.