A team of Iowa State University students is launching a project to recycle used vegetable oil from the campus cafeterias into biodiesel fuel to power CyRide buses. David Correll, a grad student in I.S.U.’s College of Business, is president of the effort called I.S.U. BioBus. Correll says the concept is simple.
“We’ll be donating what we produce to the university,” Correll says. “We’ll be operating completely non-profit for at least a year. We have two phases of production over that year, ramping up as we get better at what we do. Next year, we’ll start to look at how we can monetize what we do.”
To sell fuel, they’ll need to be licensed by the state, so he says that’s more of a long-term goal. The processor that will turn the grease into diesel fuel is being installed and Correll says they’ll start making their first batch in early March. “Phase One calls for five-gallon production per week, just to make sure we don’t break anything or hurt anyone,” Correll says. “Once we prove viability there, we’ll move up to hopefully the full capacity of our processing unit, which is 55 gallons per run. Each run takes six to eight hours so we’ll looking at 55 gallons per week production, if we do one weekly run.”
Eventually, the BioBus project may start collecting waste oil from area restaurants. Correll says they could also use a byproduct from the processing — glycerin — to make hand soap which could be sold to help sustain the project. While the fleet of CyRide buses cruising around Ames uses many hundreds of gallons of diesel each week, Correll says this small push toward sustainability is important.
“The contribution we’ll make to reducing diesel fuel consumption is pretty minor, at least at the beginning,” Correll says. “Right now, our goal is to just prove viability, to prove at a large institution like Iowa State with public transportation needs, we can fuel that bus, even partially, at this phase.”
Correll is a 32-year-old P.H.D. student from Cedar Falls, who earned his master’s degree from Iowa State with co-majors in sustainable agriculture and biorenewable resources and technology.
Learn more about BioBus at: “www.stuorg.iastate.edu/biobus/home.htm“