EIU Biodiesel Project
Biodiesel - Fuel From the Future
EIU started a pilot waste grease processing program in the spring of 2011. The Department of Biological Sciences partnered with Thomas Hall to process all of the waste cooking oil into diesel fuel. This has a significant cost benefit to the University while also decreasing the amount of energy used to ship out waste from the University.
What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a fuel source derived from the thermal chemical reaction of lipids to produce fatty acid methyl esters-Biodiesel. Put simply, fats are transformed into fuel! Biodiesel can be made from any lipid including sources such as soy oil, animal fats, and waste grease.
Biodiesel can be used in almost all diesel motors and in various blends, B100 (100%) to B2 (2%). Most automakers have approved their products to run on B20, which is commonly sold in Illinois. The Renewable Fuels Standards mandates 1 billion gallons of biodiesel blending annually in 2012.
Sewage to Fuel
The project builds on existing research showing wastewater to be an excellent medium for microbial growth when coupled with a readily available carbon source.
This property of wastewater can be attributed to its high levels of nutrients that are necessary for algal and bacterial growth, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus. When combined with natural light, all of the basic growth requirements for a community of algae and bacteria are provided.
Currently, major impediments to the production of algal and bacterial biomass for fuels and chemicals are high water usage and high cost of nutrients necessary to "feed" the organisms.
By utilizing the abundant and free community wastewater, there should be little or no impact on the municipal and local agricultural freshwater supply. In addition, microbial treatment of wastewater is an excellent way to reduce eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) caused by excessive nutrient loading from wastewater facilities.
EPA national primary drinking water standards stipulate that drinking water contains less than 10 mg/L of nitrogen to avoid the risk of certain health conditions, such as blue baby disease. This limit has forced many municipalities to install expensive nitrogen removal systems for their drinking water systems.
Students and faculty working on the EIU Biodiesel Project are helping to solve these problems, and more, to ensure a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.