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DaimlerChrysler, Michigan State University and NextEnergy Turn Former Dump Site Into Research Lab for Bio-fuels


  • Oakland County brownfield fuels green vehicles of the future
  • MSU Researcher harvests soybeans, sunflowers, corn and canola from Rose Township site
  • Testing of the crop from the site may lead to "greening" of additional brownfield sites

Auburn Hills, Mich. - 

A Detroit-area brownfield site was anything but brown this year due to a unique experiment by a Michigan State University researcher. Sunflowers, corn, soybeans and other crops lent their colors to a section of the former dump site under the watchful eye of Professor Kurt Thelen, Ph.D.

Thelen has partnered with DaimlerChrysler, the State of Michigan, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and NextEnergy of Detroit in a project to reuse the former dump site to research and develop better renewable fuels. He is leading the investigation into the possibility that crops can be grown on former industrial sites for use in ethanol or biodiesel fuel production. His first crops of soybeans, corn, sunflower, canola and switchgrass — harvested this fall — will be tested for their potential to be refined into renewable fuels.

The Rose Township Project will serve as a model for potential reuse of hundreds of Superfund and brownfield sites nationwide. The EPA has endorsed the research under the agency's Return to Use initiative, designed to encourage the reuse of Superfund sites. Approximately two acres of the 110-acre site are being used for research.

"This site may seem like a drop in the bucket, but we're looking at the possibility of taking land that isn't productive and using it to both learn and produce," said Professor Thelen. "The research we're conducting in Rose Township could have major implications for both rural and urban brownfield sites nationwide. If I had a brownfield in my neighborhood, I know I'd prefer it be 'greened' and put to a constructive use."

"Bio-fuels represent a huge opportunity to reduce our nation's consumption of petroleum," said Deb Morrissett, Vice President – Regulatory Affairs, Chrysler Group. "The Rose Township Project could give us a homegrown solution to our energy, environmental and economic challenges, and a chance to return these contaminated lands to use."

Fuels produced in Thelen's research will be tested at the National Biofuels Energy Laboratory located at NextEnergy Center, the headquarters of Michigan's non-profit alternative energy business accelerator program.  "This research, and related work here at NextEnergy, will further position Michigan as a leader in the national effort to reduce our dependence on oil and reduce the impact of transportation on our environment," said NextEnergy CEO Jim Croce.

DaimlerChrysler is a global leader among automakers in using and promoting renewable fuel sources. More than 15,000 Jeep® Liberty CRD diesels have already been delivered to customers running on B5, a fuel comprising 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent conventional diesel made from petroleum. In early 2007, DaimlerChrysler will launch the Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD with 3.0-liter, common rail, turbo-diesel engine, and the Dodge Ram diesel, both of which also will be fueled with B5 at the factory. These vehicles are also approved for regular use with B5 biodiesel fuel. The company has emerged as the leader in supporting the development of a national B20 — 20 percent biodiesel fuel — standard, and has approved the use of B20 in the 2007 Dodge Ram for commercial, government and military fleets.

In 2007, DaimlerChrysler will produce more than 250,000 Flexible Fuel Vehicles (Fives) capable of running on E85 fuel, conventional gasoline or any combination of the two fuels. The company's FFV fleet will increase to nearly 500,000 in 2008. The 2007 FFV lineup includes:

  • The Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Commander, Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs (4.7-liter engine)
  • Dodge Ram and Dodge Dakota pickups (4.7-liter engine)
  • Chrysler Sebring sedan (2.7-liter engine)
  • Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town Country minivans (3.3-liter engine)

The Rose Township site was used by waste haulers for the unauthorized disposal of oils, paint sledges and solvents in the late 1960s. More than 5,000 drums of waste were removed from the site between 1979 - 1986. While DaimlerChrysler wasn't responsible for all the pollution at the Rose Township site, an agreement was reached between all responsible parties and the company took over the cleanup project in 1988.

The Chrysler Group, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., produces Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Mopar® brand vehicles and products. The company increased worldwide sales in 2005 by five percent to 2.83 million vehicles, making the Chrysler Group the only North American-based automaker to achieve a sales increase last year. Its product lineup features some of the world's most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, the Jeep Commander and the Dodge Charger. The DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund, the company's philanthropic arm, gave $26 million in grants in 2005. The Chrysler Group is a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's fifth largest automaker, which produces passenger and commercial vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, smart and Freightliner brands.

For more information on the EPA's Return to Use initiative, visit their Web site at

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