One sustainability best practice that DePaul University should consider implementing is the creation of a biodiesel fuel program. The United States’ reliance on foreign oil has been a widely debated issue recently. Biodiesel not only reduces the need for foreign oil, but it provides a use for leftover vegetable oil that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants.
A U.S. Department of Energy study showed that the production and use of biodiesel, compared to petroleum diesel, resulted in a 78.5% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Biodiesel also has a positive energy balance, which means that for every unit of energy needed to produce a gallon of biodiesel, at least 4.5 units of energy are gained.
Biodiesel fuel is a cleaner burning; renewable fuel made from any biologically based oil. Dickinson College in South Carolina uses Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) in their biodiesel shop. The WVO is put through a process called Tranesterification. During this process, WVO is mixed with a methanol and lye solution. The ingredients are put into a reactor to be mixed and heated. Once the reaction is complete, there are two separate byproducts present: biodiesel and a glycerin byproduct. Biodiesel made in the Dickinson shop is used to power several campus trucks, tractors, and mowers. It is also used as an additional heat source for the greenhouse at the Dickinson College farm during winter.
One byproduct of the biodiesel process is glycerol, which can be harmful to the environment and humans if not handled correctly. Dickinson College has taken extra steps to ensure that they are using the glycerol in a safe and productive manner. They have 3 initiatives for putting the glycerol to good use – turning it into a soap and degreaser, using it as a composting agent, and converting it into a biogas.
DePaul would be an excellent place to create a biodiesel program. There is an enormous supply of waste vegetable oil from the university kitchens, as well as local restaurants and hotels. DePaul could use the biodiesel to power campus security vehicles, athletic buses, and landscaping vehicles.
DePaul could begin a composting program using the glycerol byproduct. While the true benefits of using glycerol in the composting process are not fully understood, DePaul could join Dickinson College in understanding the possible benefits of these chemical breakdowns.
While a proper Tranesterification process is complex, the new Msgr. Andrew J. McGowan Science Building would be an excellent place to house the project. The chemistry and environmental science departments would provide a vast knowledge base to spearhead these efforts and introduce students to the growing industry of biodiesel conversion.
Labels: Biodiesel, alternative fuel, green technology, oil recycling, What Must Be Done
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