University Facilities

Burning an alternative fuel at Clemson…BIODIESEL

By Tommi Jones

Biodiesel research.Clemson University is now producing biodiesel to fuel the diesel trucks within the Facilities’ fleet of vehicles on campus. The Clemson Sustainable Biofuels Pilot Plant creates this biodiesel from the cooking oil waste generated on campus.  The Clemson biodiesel production is lead by Terry Walker PhD, professor of Biosystems Engineering, and David Thornton. The fuel is currently being blended as a 20% mix (20% biodiesel and 80% diesel) and could potentially be mixed at 50% and 100% in the future. 

To effectively dispense the biodiesel, a new 1000-gallon fuelling station has been constructed at the Facilities landscape maintenance shop.  All of Facilities diesel-fueled vehicles and equipment will now begin using biodiesel.

What is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources such as plant oils, animal fats, used cooking oil and even new sources such as algae. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel blends can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.

Why use Biodiesel?

U.S. biodiesel reduces lifecycle carbon emissions by 60 to 80%, depending on the source, making it the best carbon reduction tool of any liquid fuel commercially available. It has the highest energy balance of any fuel, returning 4.5 units of energy for every unit of fossil energy needed to produce it.  New cropland is not needed to make biodiesel because it is generally produced from co-products of crops already being grown.  From 2004 to 2008 U.S. biodiesel production climbed from 25 million to 700 million gallons.