Braley Brings Home Bacon for Biolubes


Through the efforts of U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), the National Ag-Based Lubricant Center at the University of Northern Iowa is on tap to receive $544,000 in the fiscal year 2008 Agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 3161), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday.

Lou Honary, professor at the university and director of the center, said the money would help replace funding previously provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to aid expansion of research and development operations at the center. The USDA portion was cut off last year during this whole discussion on earmarks being eliminated, Honary told Lube Report. That certainly threw a big monkey wrench into our progress here.

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Honary is also chairman and co-founder of Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing Inc. in Plainfield, Iowa. ELM was formed in 2000 to commercialize the soybean-based lubricant and grease technology developed at the Ag-Based Lubricants Center. ELMs largest customers for its grease products include railroads and large trucking firms.

Established in 1991, the Ag-Based Lubricants Center expanded into a national center in 2006, according to Honary. Its stated mission is to provide a national focus for research and technology transfer activities that create and nurture the commercialization of biobased industrial lubricants.

We have had some funding from the Department of Energy to expand our testing capabilities so we can provide services to all of the lubricants industry, he said. Our funding in general has come from USDA and from DOE. We also get state support, basically legislative support from the state of Iowa. Plus we have industrial participants and contributors and so on.

According to Honary, the USDAs annual funding had fluctuated from year to year, from $480,000 to $600,000, but was generally in the same range as the $544,000 requested in the appropriations bill, whichnow requires approval by the U.S. Senate.

The National Ag-based Lubricants Center is leading the nation in developing innovative uses for corn, soybean and other agricultural products, Braley said. NABLs research and development is creating new markets for Iowa agricultural products and new opportunities for Iowans.

Congressman Braley had visited the centers facility and always been supportive of it, Honary said. I know he had to work very hard to convince them that what we are doing is really a very unique earmark activity which is basically being part of the infrastructure for this fledgling bio-based economic development for the whole country, he said.

The organizations goal is to get about 50 percent of its budget through funds such as federal and state government money, Honary said, to help the center with public service towards the growth of the biobased economy.

The other 50 percent we hope to have come out of our fee-based services, which will help us remain somewhat independent in case federal monies are cut, taxes are not coming in, which has happened to us sometimes in the past 15 years, he said. Some years its dry, and you dont get grant support – this way our program will be able to continue. Even if you dont get these kinds of funds that are for public service work and research work, the organization will continue to grow and help the industry.

Honary also updated the status of ELM, whose bio-based lubricants production facility in Plainfield, Iowa,was destroyed by a fire on March 20.Honarytold Lube Report this weekthat the company continued to fill grease orders via toll blenders. Greases have been delivered to customers pretty much on time, he said. The liquid lubricants were running as a temporary operation, so that is continuing.

He said ELM officials continue discussions on how to move the company forward. Were trying to explore possible mergers, acquisitions or other ways to make sure that when we rise from the ashes, we go with a different level of resources and marketing so that the company hopefully will grow to its potential, Honary said.

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