James Madison University installs large-scale
biodiesel reactor on campus
Harrisonburg, VA— James
Madison University, which boasts being No. 11 nationally for “great
campus food,” and its Fuels Diversification Program will
combine forces and fuels by producing its own biodiesel fuel from
waste cooking oil collected from campus dining facilities.
Recycling vehicles will be fitted
with tanks to collect the kitchen waste oil and deliver it to
a large-scale biodiesel reactor that was purchased by JMU in March,
said Dr. C.J. Brodrick, program co-director and an assistant professor
of integrated science and technology at JMU.
The $4,300 reactor was demonstrated
on campus April 22 - the 35th annual Earth Day - for 35 Arlington,
Virginia visiting high-school students. Some of the university’s
fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles, including some that run on
biodiesel, was displayed.
Biodiesel, which can be made
from animal fats or vegetable oils, has been powering JMU’s
diesel maintenance and grounds vehicles for the past 18 months.
What the new reactor produces will supplement the biodiesel JMU
now purchases from a local supplier.
James Madison is now taking the
next step to produce its own fuel on a larger scale, said Dr.
Chris Bachmann, also program co-director and ISAT assistant professor.
The reactor was purchased through
a grant from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy
and matching funds from JMU’s Facilities Management department.
Biodiesel is the most widely
used alternative fuel at JMU, which has been experimenting with
alternative fuels for more than a decade to reduce its dependence
on fossil fuels, all the more important as Americans struggle
with rising fuel prices.
Fourteen months ago, the university
purchased a gasoline-electric hybrid Toyota Prius that gets 40
miles to the gallon. Within six months, JMU plans to add two more
such hybrids to its fleet of 40 alternative-fuel vehicles, replacing
its seven first-generation, electric-only vehicles.
While not needing any gasoline,
the electric-only cars must be regularly plugged in and recharged,
and, too, their battery packs require replacement after five or
six years at a cost of about $5,000 a piece, said Charles McCarty,
alternative fuels coordinator at JMU.
Also in JMU’s fleet are
seven vehicles that run on gasoline and compressed natural gas.
Unlike biodiesel, which is a liquid that can be mixed with regular
diesel (though not with gasoline), compressed natural gas must
be stored in a pressurized tank, separate from the gasoline. Switches
allow the driver to choose between running the car on gasoline
For short trips, the cars can
run entirely on CNG, said JMU transportation manager Mike Kauffman.
For longer trips, gasoline is required - especially as CNG filling
stations are few and far between. The CNG cars get about 27 miles
per gallon, about the same as gas-only cars.
While the gas-electric hybrid
and the electric-only cars are the only vehicles currently saving
JMU money at the pump, all the alternative-fuel vehicles have
such benefits as longer engine life, reduced maintenance costs
and more environmentally friendly emissions.
JMU’s Fuels Diversification
Program also trains students. A JMU student-built biodiesel reactor
has been under development for several years. Senior Chelsea Jenkins
plans to publish a book in the fall on how easy it is to safely
produce biodiesel, and graduate student Steve Bantz will be conducting
a consumer comparison of commercially available reactors.
—Reprinted with permission
from James Madison University Office of Media Relations