Jayhawks Brew Up Biodiesel for a Buck

John Davis

Researchers at the University of Kansas are making biodiesel… and it’s costing only $1-a-gallon to make the green fuel.

This story from the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World says Prof. Susan Williams is using the school’s leftovers with intentions of putting the biodiesel back into the university:

With her raw materials virtually cost-free — used cooking oil from campus dining facilities, leftover methanol from chemistry researchers and potassium hydroxide (lye) from the hardware store — the associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and her colleagues can brew up biodiesel for less than $1 a gallon.

And with their biggest customer poised to start burning the fuel, Williams’ team is looking beyond Mount Oread and into a market that could use some alternatives to Middle Eastern crude.

“It can make a huge difference,” she said. “People don’t really have a lot of confidence right now in biofuels, because they’re really not familiar with them. The more we can do to educate people and help them understand the impact they can have, it’s a good thing.”

The project is gaining attention outside Lawrence, among regulators, academics and even fuel marketers themselves. All are angling to find reliable, consistent data that can indicate which alternative fuels might offer the best economic value, mechanical efficiency and environmental benefits.

So far, Williams’ team has brewed up only about 700 gallons of biodiesel… certainly not enough to make a huge impact on any energy market. But it’s a good start. And the next move is to start testing the clean, cheap fuel in some university equipment, such as lawnmowers.