Biofuel Potential of Another Invasive Species Investigated: Eurasian Milfoil

eurasian milfoil weeder on lake photo
Eurasian milfoil weeding machine being used in Wisconsin. Photo: Ed Luschei.

A few months back the idea of using kudzu for biofuel was receiving a good deal of attention, with one entrepreneur attempting to market 'kudzunol'. Now another invasive species in the US Northwest is being investigated for use as a biofuel: Eurasian Milfoil. The water plant has been infesting rivers and lakes for three decades now, and a good deal of money is spent removing it every year. What if that plant could be put to better use? That's the question that was asked by a couple from northeast Washington asked:Washington State Awards Couple $8000 Grant
Alanna Mitchell, a supervisor at the Pend Oreille Conservation District, and her husband Cesar "Sandy" Clavell have received an $8,000 grant from the Washington state Department of Ecology to look into milfoil's biofuel potential.

Alanna told that she, the idea while I was reading a document about biodiversity. I made a note in the margin, asking how can you come at problems like milfoil and handle them more comprehensively? [...] I mean, we already have this stuff. I was wondering if we could use it for something.

Research to Be Done at Local High School
While $8,000 normally barely gets you in the door when it comes to biofuel research, Mitchell and Clavell plan to get the most out of their grant money by having high school students do most of the research work, investigating methods of extracting oil for the plants.

As the school in question, Selkirk High School, has a certified water-quality research lab doing the research there might not be as far fetched as it first seems. A science teacher at the school, John Kinney spoke about the benefits for the school:

We do water testing for many of the small towns around here. It's great for the students because this is for real, and it's an example of classic research. The students get to see how it's done, how you explore all the variables and experience how the excitement sometimes wears off. Research can get tedious because you do the same thing over and over again.

Making the Most of Invasive Species
Obviously, don't expect milfoil biodiesel to be showing up at service stations any time soon, but I like the way Mitchell and Clavell are thinking: Putting things that are normally viewed as problems or hindrances and testing to see whether they can be used in beneficial ways. As a representative of the Pend Oreille County weed control board said in the original article, "You don't want people to start thinking that milfoil is a great thing," but if it can be put to good use, why not take advantage of it (and other invasive species) until they can be eradicated?

Read more about the research at ::
Alternative Biofuel Feedstocks
Biofuel Feedstocks Gain a New Candidate: Kudzu
Kudzu Harvesting for the Production of Ethanol: Redux
Cutting Cattails for Fuel? North Carolina Researchers Investigate Potential Ethanol Feedstock
Adiamo Alghe! Italian Biodiesel Producers Turn to Seaweed as Feedstock

Tags: Biofuels | Renewable Energy | United States


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