Page 42

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fuel Tank Biodiesel can help schools cut costs and carbon emissions. By Luke Reiter


f you have a taste for fried foods, you know what a pain a pan full of leftover cooking oil can be: It clogs sinks, stinks up kitchens and kills compost piles. Now, imagine several dozen gallons of used oil collecting in polyethylene drums, week after week. This is the reality for most college dining centers. But where some see a nuisance, others see opportunity. Susan Newton, an assistant professor of chemistry at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., first thought to draw on the university dining center’s supply of waste oil in 2011 as part of a new biofuels and biomass class she was teaching. Using an automated 41


processor, Newton’s class would convert the samples of waste oil into biodiesel and analyze their results. But the simplicity of the processor—a three-foot tall, stainless steel machine called a BioPro 150—soon emboldened the group to tackle greater quantities. “It was so easy to use, we decided just to use all of the waste vegetable oil,” Newton says. Of course, the increased production meant the class was churning out substantial amounts of biodiesel— typically 80 gallons a month, running the BioPro once every two weeks. The next step for Newton was finding a partner to


actually put the biodiesel to the test; she soon found one in the school’s facilities management department. “They said, ‘Hey, do you want to help us out by using it?’ and we said, ‘Absolutely!’” recalls Steve Brankle, JBU’s director of facilities management. Under the terms of the partnership, the facilities department pays for the chemical catalysts Newton’s students use to process the oil, and in exchange it receives the resulting biodiesel to run its dieselpowered equipment. Brankle describes the arrangement as a win-win: Students get to put their study into practice, and the cost of the chemical catalysts is significantly cheaper for his department than purchasing diesel fuel. “It’s a bonus for me because I save money and I don’t have to get rid of this waste [oil],” Brankle says. According to Newton’s calculations, the university pays $1.50 per gallon of biodiesel; that price factors in the cost

CCCU Advance Spring 2014  

CCCU Advance Magazine

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you