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 SRU gets biofuels processor to turn French fry oil into tractor fuel 



February 8, 2010

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab


SRU gets biofuels processor to turn French fry oil into tractor fuel    


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SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Pour 10 gallons of used French fry oil collected from Slippery Rock University's dining halls in to the processor, add a catalyst and out comes more than nine gallons of diesel fuel ready to power University diesel tractors and lawnmowers. Hold the ketchup!

           That's the plan approved by the University's Green Fund program that authorized purchase of a $6,900 biofuels processor. The processor will be ordered later this month and should be operational later this semester.

           "We will collect used cooking oil from the campus dining halls, both Weisenfluh and Boozel, and use that to operate the system," said Scott Albert, director of facilities in SRU's Office of Facilities and Planning. Albert applied for the grant to support the project. 

           "We have a dozen fryers and they use roughly 240 gallon of oil per week," said John Vag, resident director for AVI FoodSystems, the campus contract food vendor.   

           The resulting biofuel can be mixed with standard diesel fuel that powers University grounds-keeping equipment, including mowers and tractors, Albert said.

           "Each gallon of biodiesel we use, which replaces one gallon of petroleum diesel, reduces our carbon dioxide emissions by 17.32 pounds," Albert said.

           Campus equipment that burns a blend of biodiesel and diesel fuel results in improved air quality because the blended fuel burns cleaner, he said.

            The biofuels system was one of five Green Fund projects funded this year on the recommendation of the Green Fund Advisory Board and approved by SRU President Robert Smith. This year's approved projects total nearly $19,500.

           In addition to producing usable fuel, the process also generates a small quantity of byproducts, including glycerin. "We are looking for markets for the glycerin, which is used for making soap and other projects," Albert said.

           The chemical process yields more than a 90 percent return in bio-fuel, Albert said. His goal is to produce between 300 and 400 gallons of biofuel annually. 

           SRU purchased about 5,300 gallons of diesel fuel in 2009. The processor could generate a $1,200 saving in the first year.

           "It is really a pretty quick process, taking only about eight hours to make about 75 gallons per batch. The system that will be housed in SRU's Boiler Plant," he said.

           Overall, the process is part of SRU's leadership in greening. 

           The biodiesel generator will serve as a demonstration sight for campus and visitors and will remind students that such programs are feasible and efficient. Albert's grant application noted that in addition to being used to power facilities and planning equipment, the resultant fuel could be used at the Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainable System Education and Research, the campus sustainable systems demonstration laboratory, and could eventually be used to power the campus shuttle bus.

           SRU's Green Fund is a student-initiated program approved in 2008 by the University's Council of Trustees. Funding, awarded through a grant application process, supports environmental-related initiatives on campus or in the community. Grant applications may be made by SRU students, faculty or staff. Fourteen applications were submitted this year. 

           Other projects receiving authorization to proceed this year include:

      Occupancy sensors for classrooms and high-tech electric meters; $11,600; sought by Albert;

      A Sustainability Across the Curriculum Program; $4,150; sought by Langdon Smith, associate professor of geography, geology and the environment;

      Sustainability Educational Programming for Students; $3,085; sought by Liberty Merrill, a master for sustainable systems graduate student from LaGrande, Ore.; and

      A campus screening of the documentary "Food Inc."; $521; sought by Evan Endres, a graduate student in sustainable systems graduate student from Ligonier.

           Details about the occupancy sensors are available in the Jan. 22 issue of rockpride online and information on the sustainability education programming and the food documentary were included in the Jan. 29 issue. 

           Jerry Chmielewski, SRU biology professor, is chair of the fund's advisory board that is comprised of SRU students, faculty, an administrator, a representative of the facilities and planning staff, and a member of the off-campus community. 

              This year's projects continue to offer direct ties to SRU's leadership in environmental issues. 

           SRU offers academic majors in environmental education and environmental science and a master's degree in sustainable systems. SRU has also signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment as a way of helping spotlight regional reduction of greenhouse gas emission starting with the SRU campus. More than 660 other colleges, universities and other higher education institutions have signed the ACUPCC.

            SRU has shown leadership in greening throughout its most recently constructions projects, including the $140 million, suite-style apartment buildings, which include on-demand hallway lighting, energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning units, improved insulation techniques for energy efficiency and recycled materials use in making the wallboard. The buildings earned the LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. 


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.


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