University program produces, sells biodiesel

By Bryan Sims | September 20, 2010
Posted Oct. 19, 2010

Initially tested and built as part of a course, the Loyola University-Chicago Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy's (CUERP) Biodiesel Program has evolved into the first school program in the U.S. to be licensed by state and federal authorities to produce and sell biodiesel. The program received approval by the U.S. EPA, Internal Revenue Service, Illinois Department of Revenue and the National Biodiesel Board.

According to lab manager Zach Waickman, the program is expected to produce approximately 2,500 gallons of biodiesel during the school year (from August 2010 through May 2011) from waste cooking oil collected from campus cafeterias and a local restaurant in the area. "We wanted to turn what was a waste product for the university into something useful," Waickman said.

The university will sell a B100 to current and future customers. Its first customer is The Free Enterprise System Inc., a university shuttle bus service that runs between its Chicago-based Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses. The Free Enterprise System shuttle buses currently run on B7 blends, said Waickman, but with an increased supply of biodiesel should eliminate the use of nearly 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel every year in the company's six Loyola buses.

In addition to producing and selling biodiesel, the university's biodiesel program will also sell the lab's "BioSoap" at its campus stores and select retailers across Chicago. The BioSoap, made mostly from the byproduct glycerin, retails for $7.99 or $2.49 for a sample size. "Part of our planning from day one was 'how do we deal with our glycerin'?" Waikman said. "It was a pretty quick second step to develop soap recipes."

Formed in 2007, the university's biodiesel program was awarded a $10,000 grant from the EPA to implement a new educational model on campus called "Solutions to Environmental Problems" or STEP. This interdisciplinary program brought together faculty, staff and students from all over the university to tackle a tangible environmental problem Loyola was facing. From there, the students identified, designed and implemented an array of projects to contribute to the solution, including fuel-production research, the drafting of a biofuels legislative bill, the development of a documentary film, the establishment of the biodiesel lab and outreach to local high schools that allowed teachers to deliver the STEP curriculum to their students.

The biodiesel program received an additional $75,000 grant from the EPA for high school outreach and is now its own stand-alone program. Waikman said the profits the program reaps for selling its biodiesel goes towards supporting lab operations and for high school outreach to help educate students about the benefits of biodiesel.

"We like the idea of it being a small sustainable business that the [college] students get to run," Waikman said. "But, it's still heavily focused on education."
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