If you want to run your vehicle on biodiesel in the Flathead, your only choice at the moment is B5, a blend of 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent petroleum-based diesel.
Cory Waggoner plans to up the options in the near future by bringing B99, which is 99 percent biodiesel, to the valley.
The 21-year-old Columbia Falls resident says he began working on the idea six months ago, after trying biodiesel in his truck and discovering that “It was all good.”
In preparation for starting his business, he took classes on small business management and studied up on biodiesel. Waggoner figured it would take him two months at most to get his fuel station up and running.
“I didn’t realize how many regulations there were,” he says. “I thought I could rent a piece of property and just start building.”
In part, the difficulties Waggoner encountered stem from being the first to sell B99 in the area, and from having the start-up capital of a typical 21-year-old.
In order to save money, Waggoner wants to transport his own fuel from the local rail yard to his station. To do that, he had to get a hazardous materials endorsement on his driver’s license, and to do that, he had to be fingerprinted in Spokane, study up, and take a test.
Also, to store his fuel, Waggoner wants to build an aboveground storage tank. That would cost him only $5,000, about $25,000 less than an underground tank, he says, and make it easier to keep the fuel warm in the winter.
But building inspectors in Columbia Falls hadn’t yet encountered an aboveground storage tank, or biodiesel storage for that matter.
Because of that, Waggoner says, his site plan failed its first review by the Columbia Falls building inspector, but they’ve been working together since.
“They’ve been really helpful,” Waggoner says.
The city planning inspector did not return calls for comment.
Waggoner hopes to have his new site plan approved by early September, and plans to open his biodiesel station in Columbia Falls later that month.