Community-Scale Biodiesel: An Affordable, Renewable Resource

EPA Grant Number: SU831897
Title: Community-Scale Biodiesel: An Affordable, Renewable Resource
Investigators: Janda, Kathryn , Matlin, Albert
Current Investigators: Janda, Kathryn , Andreas, Loren , Call, Isabel , Cragel, John , Gunn, Cohn , Holland, Julia , Matlin, Albert , Merrett, Stephen , Yamashita, Lina
Institution: Oberlin College
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2004 through May 30, 2005
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


We are proposing to build a community-scale biodiesel processing facility. Biodiesel fuel can offset petroleum use that currently poses many problems to modern society. Typically biodiesel production relies on fossil energy inputs. Conventionally produced biodiesel is made from virgin vegetable oil and retails at approximately $2.50 per gallon (prohibitively costly for many potential users). Our unique model will minimize the environmental impacts of biodiesel production and simultaneously make this clean-burning renewable fuel affordable for communities.


This will be accomplished in several ways. First, our processor will be off the electrical grid and require no fossil energy inputs. Second, our feedstock for biodiesel production will be waste vegetable oil produced by the local food service industry. Businesses typically must pay to have their waste oil collected by rendering services. Once we obtain the appropriate state certifications, we can offer to collect waste oil for free from local businesses. Thus our feedstock will cost nothing, which significantly reduces the cost of production for a gallon of our biodiesel. Third, our non-profit facility will be operated by well-trained volunteers and members of a consumer’s cooperative, and monitored by a few paid staff. Unusually low production costs can be passed on to the consumer; our fuel will retail at approximately $0.60 per gallon. Since biodiesel can be burned in any unmodified diesel engine, many users who cannot afford other renewable energy technologies may consider biodiesel a viable option for transportation, power generation, or home heating.

Expected Results:

This project has potential to improve local air quality, close a local industrial recycling loop, and make green energy technology available to lower-income users. In addition, it can serve as an educational tool for students and the community about the benefits of affordable, community-scale, renewable energy production.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

biodiesel, community-scale, vegetable oil, food service industry, alternative fuels, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemicals Management, Environmental Engineering, waste to fuel conversion, energy conservation, alternative to petroleum diesel fuel, renewable fuel production, emission controls, transportation technology, biotechnology, energy efficiency, ethanol, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, alternative energy source, environmentally benign alternative, biofuel, green chemistry, renewable energy

Relevant Websites:

Biodiesel Oberlin Exit
Project Description

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report