Propel Launches Biodiesel Fuel Station in South Lake Union

6/27/08Follow @gthuang

Not in my back yard. Just kidding, always wanted to say that. This morning I stopped by the media launch of Seattle-based Propel‘s new biodiesel station on the corner of Westlake Avenue and Valley Street, which becomes Broad Street—just blocks from my home in South Lake Union. (In fact, I can see the green canopy from my living room.) The station is Propel’s sixth biodiesel fueling facility in Washington, but it’s the largest, and the first one dedicated to only biodiesel—no regular diesel. It officially opens for business tomorrow.

Biodiesel is derived from crops such as soybeans and canola, as well as recycled cooking oil. It is touted as being much better for the environment than petroleum-based diesel and gas, but it’s not without controversy—such as the issue of whether it contributes to rising food prices. This morning, Propel founder and CEO Rob Elam deflected the criticism, sticking to the theme that relying on petroleum is the real problem.

Elam pointed out that petroleum is up to $142 a barrel today, an all-time high. Meanwhile, the two 5,000-gallon biofuel tanks behind him spoke to the benefits of biodiesel, with the following stats printed on them: 1,126,000 pounds of carbon dioxide saved in total, 1,496 barrels of oil displaced, and the carbon equivalent of 87,647 mature trees saved annually. Regular cars won’t run on the bio stuff, but any diesel vehicle will.

Propel seems to have picked this location carefully—a very busy intersection in what Elam calls the “most sustainable neighborhood” in Seattle. Like a lot of residents, I don’t own a car here and I don’t plan on buying one anytime soon—not even a fancy diesel car that can run on biofuel (the Jetta model in the photo above will be available in August). But with all the construction and development going on in the neighborhood, it’s a good bet the station will get its share of business, as long as biofuel prices stay competitive with regular diesel. “This is an industrial area, and we want to fuel those trucks,” said Elam.

Drive-through espresso shopI couldn’t help but notice that this sustainable neighborhood with the “greenest” drivers also has a drive-through espresso store, right across the street from the Propel station (see right—photos courtesy of Mara E. Vatz). Let’s keep our priorities straight…

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • joshuadf
  • http://www.biofuelprocessor.com Biodiesel Processor

    Very cool, I build biodiesel processors which turn waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. It is really amazing how simple the process is, as well as saving the customer $2-3 per gallon at the pumps. Algae biodiesel looks even more promising. As the other poster said, we just need to keep moving in the right direction. Good to see stations starting to spring up.