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Culinary Institute of America produces WVO-based biodiesel

By Luke Geiver | January 24, 2011

The Culinary Institute of America has found a sustainable use for the school’s waste vegetable oil (WVO). At the Greystone campus located within Napa Valley, the CIA is making high-quality biodiesel from the WVO to fuel campus shuttles. The WVO is taken from fryers in the teaching kitchen and from a restaurant on campus, and converted using a BioPro biodiesel processor from Springboard Biodiesel LLC, according to Greg Phipps, facilities director on campus.

The biodiesel is used in two shuttle vans and other all-terrain vehicles used to move equipment around the campus. The vans, each with a 26-gallon fuel tank, previously used diesel fuel at a cost of roughly $3.35 per gallon. By using the biodiesel-blended fuel, which according to the school costs 88 cents per gallon to make, the CIA was able to save $64 per tank.

The school has been producing biodiesel for the last three months, and Phipps said in the winter the mix will be 50 percent biodiesel while the summer mix will be 70 percent. The idea to use the school’s WVO was first proposed by Charles E. Henning, managing director of the campus. “I have been ‘green-thinking’ for many years,” Henning said. “I grew up in Switzerland where we have been recycling and leading a green lifestyle since the 1960s.” Because sustainability is a large goal of the CIA, Henning started looking at how to put the WVO to better use. “After investigating several options, we ran the numbers on purchasing our own distiller to make the biodiesel,” he said, adding that because the machine would pay for itself in one year, “the decision was obvious.”

Phipps added that starting the process was not easy and required homework, but they learned a lot by taking an online biodiesel production class from Utah Biodiesel Supply Co., and also received help from Springboard.

The staff and students have been very supportive of the decision to produce biodiesel, Henning said, and while there are other recycling programs on campus, Henning said on the subject of producing biodiesel, “I would say if anyone has access to a large amount of used cooking oil, it is definitely worth considering.”

 

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