Fuel from the fryer

Biodiedel will utilize dining hall's waste

Biodiedel will utilize dining hall's waste

December 18, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG - As Fulton Farm Manager Matt Steiman turns on an irrigation pump fueled with biodiesel, the faint scent of greasy french fries wafts from the machinery.

Steiman is experimenting with alternative fuel sources, including biodiesel, which is created by a chemical reaction among methanol, lye and leftover vegetable oil from the Wilson College dining hall.

"We're excited about the possibility of generating our own renewable fuel produced from a waste product produced here," Steiman said.

Wilson College owns the 50-acre farm, which is the focal point of the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living.

Steiman accepted a $5,000 check Tuesday from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and the Pennsylvania Farmers' Union to construct a 50-gallon processor at the farm to make biodiesel.


The fuel burns cleaner than regular petroleum diesel and will cost about 50 cents a gallon to make, Steiman said. It can be made from any vegetable oil or animal fat and can be burned in any diesel engine without modifications.

Initially, it will be used only to run the irrigation pump, but Steiman said he hopes to acquire a diesel tractor and eventually make enough for the college's grounds staff to use in its equipment.

Steiman said making biodiesel is something he's been considering for three years, and he didn't realize how easy the process is. He is currently mixing the fryer oil and chemicals by hand in glass jugs, which then have to sit for a day before the biodiesel can be separated from the byproduct glycerine.

Once it's settled and ready for use, biodiesel is the color of iced tea.

"Fulton Farm is an inspiration to us. It is one of the first in Pennsylvania to deal with biodiesel," said Tom Linzey, director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

The Wilson College cafeteria produces more than 50 gallons of waste grease a month and pays for the disposal of that grease. The farm will receive the chemicals through the chemistry department.

Steiman said the waste vegetable oil is skimmed out of the fryers, and companies traditionally have used it to make cosmetics and candles.

"Instead we can use it to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," he said.

Shifting reliance from fossil fuels to renewable biofuels is a part of the Pennsylvania Farmers' Union policy, union president Larry Breech said.

Biodiesel also results in significant reductions in pollution compared to petroleum diesel fuel.

Steiman said he hopes to have the processor in place and running by February and have about 100 gallons of biodiesel on hand by March to operate the pump for the rest of the year.

Once the processor is operational, Steiman said he would conduct community workshops for people interested in learning more about biodiesel.

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