UC collaboration leads to biodiesel research

Fueled by a US EPA grant, University of Cincinnati faculty and students are leading an effort to transform cooking grease into biodiesel on a regional scale.

This project is a collaboration among UC, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Bluegrass Biodiesel of Falmouth, Ky. The partners will test three methods to extract oil from the grease, including one the University is planning to patent.

Longer term plans are that this oil could be used in a biodiesel mixture to power diesel equipment and vehicles.

Grease hauling is an industry vital to restaurants, which pay haulers to dispose of used cooking grease. But the grease has to disposed of, usually in landfills.

"MSD receives grease from haulers," says project leader Mingming Lu, UC associate professor of Environmental Engineering. "The grease -- a mix of solid and liquid -- are from restaurant grease traps. MSD also has grease from the waste water it receives. The two kinds of grease are mixed, skimmed and condensed. This is called trap grease. It's stored in a pond and then sent to a landfill."

The EPA awarded the biodiesel effort an $87,000 grant during the the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in May. The project was chosen from among 300 presented by college and university innovators across the country.

Up to seven UC students will be involved in the effort, Lu says. It's set to start in September and should last two years. It will include pilot demonstrations and a 100-gallon pilot treatment facility in collaboration with MSD.

"This is technology verification. We will try several technologies and see which one is the most effective for MSD," Lu says.

By Feoshia Henderson
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