Closing the Biodiesel Loop: Self Sustaining Community Based Biodiesel Production

EPA Grant Number: SU832484
Title: Closing the Biodiesel Loop: Self Sustaining Community Based Biodiesel Production
Investigators: Ramsdell, Jeff , Smith, Chuck , Scanlin, Dennis
Current Investigators: Ramsdell, Jeff , Raichle, Brian W. , McKim, Alyssa , Lee, Ben , Schweig, Billy , Atchison, Blake , Frazer, Brooke , Jude, Chris , Curtin, Chris , Heldman, Clark , Scanlin, Dennis , Martin, Jack , Toon, Jared , Trombower, Jay , Ferrell, Jeremy , Atchison, Joel , Ruth, Jon , Fondren, Julia , Stiles, Justin , Marone, Kaitlin , Hamm, Laura , Rogers, Mary , Ramey, Michael , Feather, Paul , Hoch, Rachael , Hiller, Ryan , Pendergast, Sean , Carroll, Terry , Strauch, Yonaton
Institution: Appalachian State University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2005 through May 30, 2006
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Air Quality , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Increasingly poor air quality and some of the highest diesel prices in the country have created a need in Western North Carolina for an alternative to petroleum diesel. The purpose of this project is to develop a sustainable biodiesel research facility in the Appropriate Technology program at Appalachian State University to promote biodiesel use and provide students with a hands-on research opportunity. The interdisciplinary team of graduate and undergraduate students has been assembled from a variety of disciplines, and will provide research opportunities in three distinct areas of study at ASU, including the departments of Technology, Sustainable Development and Chemistry. Partnerships are anticipated with local farm co-ops and a local community action group to bring low cost fuel to low income families and local farmers. Upon completion of the project the operation will continue to be used as a hands-on learning and research tool for students and community members. The innovative objectives of this project are:

  1. Design and build an 80-120 gal batch Biodiesel processor capable of producing ASTM D6751-03 standard fuel from local waste vegetable oil.
  2. Incorporate Solar Thermal technologies and vegetable oil based heating systems to remove the need for grid electricity or petroleum heating processes.
  3. Develop a natural water filtration system for biodiesel production wastewater, so that wash water can be safely and continuously reused.
  4. Build and implement a methanol recovery still using a vegetable oil based heater to recover and reuse excess methanol and purify glycerol for safe use.
  5. Explore the feasibility of using locally produced bio fuels to supplement student and low-income families’ heating bills and local agriculturalists’ fuel costs.

This project meets the P3 requirements by reducing the environmental impact of small-scale biodiesel production, developing a unique design for small-scale production plants, improving the local economy by lowering the home heating costs of local families and the fuel costs of local farmers, and providing a cleaner alternative to petroleum diesel and fuel oil. Results of the first phase of the project will be measured by ASTM testing of fuel quality, monitoring of energy inputs, water used and recycled, methanol recovered and glycerol produced. An economic evaluation of the costs of fuel production will also be completed.

Supplemental Keywords:

global climate, green chemistry, clean technologies, innovative technologies, manufacturing, conservation, waste reduction, agriculture, engineering, atmosphere, groundwater, mobile sources, cleaner production/pollution prevention, renewable fuels, life-cycle analysis, alternative energy source,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Geographic Area, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Energy, Environmental Chemistry, State, Technology, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemicals Management, Environmental Engineering, energy conservation, waste cooking oils, waste vegetable oil, waste to fuel conversion, alternative to petroleum diesel fuel, renewable fuel production, education, emission controls, energy efficiency, biodiesel fuel, alternative fuel, engineering, biotechnology, alternative energy source, environmentally benign alternative, biofuel, North Carolina (NC), green chemistry, renewable energy

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract
Phase 2 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    Closing the Biodiesel Loop: Self Sustaining Community Based Biodiesel Production  | Final Report