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UI steaming ahead with biodiesel
March 14, 2017
The University of Idaho steam plant, which heats the Moscow campus with wood chips, is reducing its emissions, eliminating waste on campus and providing students with a learning opportunity all at the same time.

By fueling their semi-truck and front-end loaders with biodiesel made on campus from used cooking oil, the Steam Plant discovered they could easily reduce harmful emissions from their operation while generating several other benefits to the University.

“It's a great deal all the way around for all of us," said Scott Smith, UI’s steam plant manager.

Smith first started investigating biodiesel as a way for the plant to comply with the University’s goal to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2030. Using a 20-percent blend of biodiesel, or B20, at the steam plant would reduce carbon dioxide by an estimated 10 tons annually, according the National Biodiesel Board’s emissions calculator.

The used cooking oil is from the University of Idaho Dining Services, operated by Sodexo, at the Commons Building on the Moscow campus.

“Using biodiesel made from campus generated waste cooking oil does so much more than just give us cleaner air and minimize our carbon emissions” according to Smith.

The used cooking oil is processed into biodiesel on campus at the Biological Engineering Biodiesel Lab and provides a “hands on” opportunity for students to learn how to make biodiesel from a waste product.

“In addition to reducing our environmental impact and providing students with actual production experience, it also reduces the Steam Plant’s operating costs,” Smith said.

Sodexo is also using biodiesel made in the Biodiesel Lab according to John Crockett, UI’s Biodiesel Education Program manager. Using waste oil as a fuel base - or feedstock - means that waste cooking oil, previously dumped as waste into landfills, can instead be converted into a better diesel engine fuel.

Crockett said that biodiesel improves fuel lubrication, known as “lubricity,” and eliminates the need for another additive required in straight petroleum diesel.

“Using biodiesel should make their diesel engines last longer”, according to Crockett.

The University of Idaho began researching using vegetable oil for diesel fuel in 1979 and is recognized worldwide as the pioneers in biodiesel research.
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