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A New Hampshire College Uses Cooking Waste to Keep Warm

11/2/16 8:57 AM

Vegetable oil is mainly used for cooking, but as the society slowly moves toward becoming sustainable, the need for alternative fossil fuels is in demand. With help from a New England-based producer, Keene State College is the first college or university in the United States to use 100% purified waste vegetable oil to heat one-third of its campus.

As part of the Carbon Commitment program, Keene State is using the biofuel to replace No. 6 heating fuel, which is one of the cheapest, heaviest and dirtiest forms of heating oil. As of July 2012, New York City banned the use of No. 6 heating oil because it contains sulfur, nickel and other pollutants that do not burn off completely, causing it to spew out into the air and into our lungs.

In order to transform the used cooking oil it's filtered to catch any food particles and heated to separate any water from the oil. Then alcohol (methanol) and a strong alkaline catalyst (NaOH or KOH) are added, causing a chemical reaction which produces glycerin and mono-alkyl methyl esters (biodiesel). Residual glycerin and methanol are then removed, creating the finished fuel.

Purified waste vegetable oil is a carbon neutral, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions for Keene State as they work toward the goal of carbon neutrality. Since the cost of is comparable to No. 6 heating fuel, once the cold weather settles in the alternative fuel will count for 36% percent of the heat used by buildings on the campus heating system. The college plans to increase the use of the biofuel over the next two to three years.

Turning the used vegetable oil into a biofuel is a complicated process, involving multiple chemical. MadgeTech, also based in New Hampshire, offers monitoring solutions to ensure the oil maintains the correct temperature throughout the conversion. To view to the entire collection of data loggers specially designed to withstand high temperatures for oil and gas applications, click here.

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