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Biofuels at the Zoo

biodiesel... fuel from french fries

BioFuel at NC ZooAs part of our Environmental Management System to reduce consumption of natural resources, the Zoo uses a biodiesel blend in place of regular petroleum fuel for trams, buses, trucks, tractors and equipment.  Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, allowing us to recycle used fry oil collected by Zoo restaurants.  It is a substitute for petroleum diesel that is 100% renewable.

Biodiesel at NC ZooBiodiesel made from used vegetable oil is blended with petroleum diesel to produce a cleaner burning fuel.  The mix is usually B20 - 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.  Zoo restaurants provide about 1500 gallons of used oil that is processed in 30-gallon batches. Current capacity can produce 1500 gallons of pure B100 or 7,500 gallons of B20 blend annually.  This is enough B20 to meet 40% of Zoo fuel demand.  Plans to increase the batch size and to add a second reactor tank will increase output to 17,000 gallons of B20, to meet 100% of Zoo diesel fuel needs. As production capacity increases, the Zoo will need to obtain additional waste oil from local restaurants.

Biodiesel is clean burning and B20 is estimated to reduce:

While exploring funding sources to design build and install the biodiesel processor, the Zoo received a $2000 grant from the NC Solar Center Alternative Fuel Incentive Project.  This paid 2/3 of the cost difference between biodiesel and petroleum diesel for a seven-month period beginning December 2004.  Taking advantage of this program, the Zoo became familiar with blending biodiesel and using B20.

BioFuel In March 2005, the Zoo was awarded an Air Quality Mobile Source Emissions Reduction grant for $23,000 to design, build, and install a reactor to process waste cooking oil.  Piedmont Biofuels built the processor that became operational in December 2005.  Grant funds were used for the processor, materials for the processor trailer and shed, a storage tank and for chemicals.  The grant was matched with Zoo funds for labor on the trailer and shed, an education cart on biofuels and green practices, biodiesel graphics on trams and buses, a ZooFilez TV segment, teacher workshops on alternative fuels, high school class projects and this web page.

With experience producing and using B20, the Zoo hopes to move towards using B100, ultimately phasing out all petroleum diesel fuel.

About Biodiesel

Biodiesel is made by combining alcohol (usually methanol) with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking greases. It can be used as an additive to reduce vehicle emissions (typically 20%) or in its pure form as a renewable alternative fuel for diesel engines.

There are a number of ways to convert biomass to methanol, but the most likely approach is gasification. Gasification involves vaporizing the biomass at high temperatures, then removing impurities from the hot gas and passing it through a catalyst, which converts it into methanol.

Related Information

The National Biodiesel Board provides information on using biodiesel in conventional diesel engines, including a list of biodiesel suppliers. Their Web site includes an excellent FAQ.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides a through Introduction to Biofuels.

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Alternative Fuels Data Center provides information on alternative fuel vehicles and refueling sites across the country.

Link: Piedmont Biofuels