Biodiesel program

Clemson University is now producing its own 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 led by Terry Walker PhD, professor of Biosystems Engineering, and research associate David Thornton. The fuel is currently being blended as a 20-33% mix (20-33% biodiesel and 67-80% diesel) and is heading toward 50% and then to 100% in the near future. Some compatible vehicles are already running an 100% mix, like the Bioengineering/Mechanical Engineering truck (the 'Grease Goblin') and several Facilities trucks. 

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 have begun 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 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; this makes 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.

This project was recently named the Energy Project of the Year (2011) by the Association of South Carolina Energy Managers, you can also check out our appearance in Biodiesel Magazine.

Exploring Biodiesel Development Biodiesel Tank Biodiesel discussion

Fast Facts:

  • Biodiesel is a renewable energy source: vegetable oil or ethanol based and produced domestically or locally
  • Cleaner emissions: 100% biodiesel emits 78% less carbon dioxide, 48% less carbon monoxide, 67% less hyrdocarbons, and 47% less particulate matter emissions than burning petroleum
  • We are currently running a 20-33% biodiesel mix
  • Some vehicles are running 100% biodiesel (The Grease Goblin and 2 Facilities trucks)
  • Currently producing 3,000 gallons of biodiesel a year at an on-campus facility
  • Recently added a biodiesel generator for added power requirements
  • Biodegradable
  • No major engine modifications required, same fueling infrastructure can be used
  • Better lubrication properties than petroleum diesel


The Grease Goblin


Ongoing Efforts: