Campus turns waste into biodiesel

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MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — At Mount Vernon Nazarene University, vegetable oil bathes French fries and other foods in a golden crust. Then it plows sidewalks, powers maintenance equipment and the occasional bus.

It’s a new “green” initiative on the campus that saves money and challenges the next generation to accomplish more with less.

Last fall, the university’s director of facilities management/campus safety, Denny Taylor, developed initiatives to help reduce the school’s environmental impact.

Programs

His quest produced a recycling program, beginning with the dorms; a demonstration site for passive solar lighting; and an inexpensive way to kill weeds using vinegar and orange oil — all good ideas, with more on the way.

But it was the waste vegetable oil that Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s (MVNU) Pioneer College caterers paid a monthly fee to get rid of that got him excited.

Taylor located www.homebiodieselkits.com, maker of an apparatus that converts waste vegetable oil into biodiesel, and purchased a machine. A projected $2 per gallon savings would cover the cost of the machine in two years.

Garry Detty, a maintenance assistant, studied the manuals, procured various chemicals and assembled the machine.

He even created a rough straining system to keep the larger chunks of food out of the raw material as it was transported to a makeshift processing facility in a university storage building.

Brew

In November, the first test batch was “brewed.”
On Daniel Martin’s snowy presidential inauguration day, a 50/50 mix of bio- and regular diesel fueled university snow plows. Since then, mixtures have reached 100 percent biodiesel, with every test successful.

With daily production of 90 gallons possible, the potential is significant. Glycerin is the only waste product produced in the process and it is being mixed with mulch and used as fertilizer, though it could be sold to certain manufacturers.

According to Jeff Spear, vice president of finance, “Fuel costs have grown by 20 percent for each of the past five years, making affordability a real issue relating to daily campus maintenance and transportation of students.

Real savings

“This project saves real money, reduces our environmental impact and provides a timely demonstration lab for tomorrow’s leaders studying at MVNU today.”

“Americans’ fondness for fried foods contributes to over 10 million tons of used fry oil that must be disposed of annually,” said Joseph Lechner, professor of chemistry.

“While waste vegetable oil can serve as raw material for soap manufacturers or can be refined for re-use in animal feed, either option might require transporting it hundreds of miles to a suitable facility, often at the ‘donor’s’ expense. Biodiesel provides an opportunity for small generators like MVNU to recycle waste vegetable oil locally.”

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