Portland biodiesel company helps Phish, other touring bands, go green

Posted July 02, 2013, at 3:58 p.m.
Last modified July 03, 2013, at 6:08 a.m.

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Jim Kilmartin of Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland puts biodiesel in his delivery truck's fuel tank before taking a load north to the rock band Phish in Bangor, Maine Standard Biofuels makes biodiesel with used cooking oil from nearly 800 restaurants from Bar Harbor to Boston.
Jim Kilmartin of Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland puts biodiesel in his delivery truck's fuel tank before taking a load north to the rock band Phish in Bangor, Maine Standard Biofuels makes biodiesel with used cooking oil from nearly 800 restaurants from Bar Harbor to Boston. Buy Photo
Jarmin Kaltsas, president and founder of Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland, stands next to a tank of biodiesel made from used cooking oil collected from restaurants.
Jarmin Kaltsas, president and founder of Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland, stands next to a tank of biodiesel made from used cooking oil collected from restaurants. Buy Photo
Jim Kilmartin of Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland loads his delivery truck with biodiesel before it gets trucked north for the rock band Phish in Bangor, Maine.
Jim Kilmartin of Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland loads his delivery truck with biodiesel before it gets trucked north for the rock band Phish in Bangor, Maine. Buy Photo
Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland makes biodiesel with used cooking oil from nearly 800 restaurants from Bar Harbor to Boston.
Maine Standard Biofuels in Portland makes biodiesel with used cooking oil from nearly 800 restaurants from Bar Harbor to Boston. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — Starting this week, when tour buses for bands like Phish travel through Maine, they’ll be able to fill up using environmentally friendly biofuels.

Maine Standard Biofuels, which converts used cooking oils from regional restaurants into a fuel for diesel engines, traveled from its Portland facility to Bangor on Tuesday to refill 10 touring vehicles in town for the jam band’s waterfront concert.

Maine Standard Biofuels is picking up the new summertime work as part of an arrangement with fellow Portland organization Reverb, founded nine years ago by Guster lead man Adam Gardner and his wife to help touring bands and festivals go green.

The foray into the rock world is providing the biodiesel producer exposure to a fresh, influential market after years of steadily growing through fuel deals with corporate clients like Oakhurst Dairy, National Distributors Inc. and Casella Waste Systems.

“The great thing about Reverb is that they’re working with huge bands with large audiences, and they can get the message out about biofuels and alternative energies, as well as cutting down on the carbon footprints of these tours,” said MSB founder and president Jarmin Kaltsas Tuesday.

For client bands going through the Pine Tree State, Maine Standard Biofuels will now offer the green biodiesel to complement Reverb’s other services, such as comprehensive recycling plans and promotion of energy efficient lights and electrical equipment.

“It’s not always easy [to convince tour managers to agree to use biodiesel],” said MSB spokesman Michael Leonard, noting the limited refueling stations and lingering misconceptions about the fuel’s performance in cold weather. “There aren’t a plethora of biodiesel pumps around. It takes a lot of coordination on the part of Reverb and on the part of Jarmin’s company to make this work.”

Needless to say, when Guster heads up to the Bangor waterfront along with the Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds Five for a July 21 show, Maine Standard Biofuels will be back again with their fueling trucks.

By adding the tour buses and trucks to its clientele, Kaltsas said his company is expecting to increase its biodiesel distribution from about 500,000 gallons per year to more than 1 million gallons annually by next year.

Byproducts from the process of converting used cooking oil into biodiesel are converted by the company into industrial strength glycerin-based soap. The company also has a nearby fabrication facility that converts old heating oil tanks into biofuel tanks for homeowners who want to make the switch to biofuel for home heat.

The company currently employs 11 people.

“As we grow, we’ll bring on more employees,” Kaltsas said.

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