Final Report: Reduction of Use of Petroleum Energy Resources by Conversion of Waste Cooking Oils into Diesel Fuel

EPA Grant Number: SU831885
Title: Reduction of Use of Petroleum Energy Resources by Conversion of Waste Cooking Oils into Diesel Fuel
Investigators: Perez, J. M. , Lloyd, W. A. , Nedwick, R.
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2004 through May 31, 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: Nanotechnology , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


This research project involves the conversion of waste cooking oils into Bl00 bio-diesel fuel. Bl00 is 100 percent transesterified vegetable oil. Nine sites on campus and several local restaurants are the potential source of over 9 drums (400 + gallons) per week of used cooking oil, Table 1. (Expanding the collection area to Centre county could result in several thousand gallons per week). The B 100 bio-diesel fuel produced will be used to produce B20 (20 percent bio-diesel and 80 percent diesel fuel) for use in The Pennsylvania State University Farm Operation's tractors and vehicles. Commercially available B100 has been under evaluation at Penn State for over a year. Fuel produced by this Bio-diesel Project will be used to replace the commercial B100 used by our Farm Operations Group.

Table I. Available Waste Cooking Oils on or near Campus
SOURCENo.Estimated Gallons/Week
Dinning Halls on Campus9350
Golden Wok *125
The Diner*125
The Corner Room*125
Red Lobster*125

*Local Restaurants Contacted for Samples

The primary obiective of the Bio-diesel Project is to provide undergraduate students with a real life, hands-on engineering project to enhance their chemical engineering principles. The students obtained and developed data from which they have conducted experiments, designed, constructed and operated a 25-gallon bio-diesel pilot plant. This plant is used to transesterify vegetable oils into bio-diesel fuel. Waste cooking oils available on campus and from local restaurants are utilized as the feedstock. One of our project goals is to supply the University requirements for bio-diesel fuel for over 100 farm tractors and vehicles. The bio-diesel fuel produced on the project will over 100 farm tractors and vehicles. The bio-diesel fuel produced on the project will replace the bio-diesel fuel currently in use in all our diesel farm equipment. This project is part of a collaborative effort of the Chemical Engineering Department and several departments of the University to turn Penn State "green".

The Phase I pilot plant and most current processes described in the literature that are used to make bio-diesel fuel are batch processes. Phase II will consider design and development of a continuous process. A preliminary design for consideration has been developed by students from the Bio-diesel Team. This was done as pan of their requirements for a Chemical Engineering Design Course conducted by one of the team advisors. Validation of this design will be part of Phase II.

Producing bio-diesel from waste cooking oil available on campus and at local restaurants is a challenging opportunity for students interested in the environment and sustainability.


The petroleum resources in the United States are dwindling while energy use continues to grow. This leads to an increasing dependence on foreign oil. The projected use of imported oil for 2005 is 23 million barrels per day of which 15 million barrels per day are used to meet transportation energy requirements (1,2). There is a definite need to develop alternate sources of fuel that do not depend on foreign petroleum oil. Bio-diesel fuel is a leading alternative fuel contender. This project will help to meet that need by producing bio-diesel fuel (B 100) from waste cooking oils.

Diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline engines, produce less green house gas, and use some 6 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year. By using 20 percent bio-diesel (B20), 1.2 billion gallons (28.6 million barrels) of imported petroleum would be displaced by a renewable and sustainable resource. In addition to reducing petroleum imports, bio-diesel fuel has the advantages of helping farmers, creating jobs and reducing diesel engine emissions. Engine studies at Penn State have also shown differences in particulate emissions and morphology when using vegetable fuels and lubricants (3). This suggests the bio-diesel soot particles may be less or non-carcinogenic matter.

In the past 12 months, the Penn State Bio-diesel Project has become a valuable educational tool within the Chemical Engineering Department. The project is an undergraduate student-run project with the majority of the work performed by the students. The students meet with the advisors weekly to discuss accomplishments and problems. Activities conducted by the students include research and development, design and construction of the pilot plant, canvassing and obtaining cooking oils from local sites including local restaurants. For compensation, the students receive three Chemical Engineering Elective course credits toward their graduation requirements.

The group has conducted numerous small scale (1-liter) reactions to optimize the process, Figures I and II. Through experimental work, the group has optimized the efficiency of the procedure and the quality of the product. Use of different catalysts and alcohols has been studied and a procedure developed.

A 25-gallon pilot plant, Figure III, has been constructed and utilized to produce 20-gallon batches of bio-diesel. Both sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide have been used as catalysts. Methanol and ethanol have been used as the alcohols. The product quality target is to meet ASTM specifications. During Phase 1, the products have been sent to a commercial laboratory to veri& our product quality control. A sample of the product ran successfully in a single cylinder test engine at our Energy Institute.



The Bio-diesel Project at Penn State has achieved its Phase I objectives. A process has been developed, a pilot plant reactor built and products produced from waste cooking oils have met ASTM specifications for bio-diesel fuel. A preliminary design for a continuous reactor has been developed for evaluation and verification in Phase II.

Objectives are: 1) Verification of Continuous Process Design, 2) Construction of a 100 gallon per week batch process unit for the University Farm Operations Department, 3) Become analytically self sustaining to insure quality control, 4) Conduct a feasibility investigation of increasing the product value of the glycerol by-product from the bio-processing and 4) Development of a strategy to construct a plant using a continuous process to produce bio-diesel fuel for Centre and adjacent counties.


Biodiesel Team.The current project team is found in Figure IV.


Presentations of the Bio-diesel Project were made at the Penn State Ag Progress Days Aug. 2004, the US Soybean Board Technical Advisoiy Panel meeting in September 2004, the IPAC Ch.E. Dept. evaluation, Mar.2004 and 2005, the STLE Chicago Section Educational Meeting Mar. 2005 and the Penna. Turnpike Listen and Learn Meetings April 2005. Preparation of a presentation for the Annual AOCS meeting May 2005 is in progress. A paper will be prepared and submitted to AOCS upon completion of Phase 1.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 3 publications 2 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Weller DE, Swain WH, Hess H, Boehman A, Perez JM. Changes in particulate composition and morphology when using of vegetable oil lubricant in a low heat rejection engine. SAE Technical Paper Series 1999; SU831885 (Final)
not available

Supplemental Keywords:

Alternative Fuels, Vegetable Oils, Cooking Oils, Bio-diesel Fuel, Petroleum Energy Displacement,, 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, energy conservation, waste cooking oils, waste to fuel conversion, alternative to petroleum diesel fuel, renewable fuel production, emission controls, energy efficiency, biodiesel fuel, waste cooking oil, ethanol, biotechnology, alternative fuel, alternative energy source, environmentally benign alternative, biofuel, green chemistry, renewable energy

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