NMU Explores Biodiesel
Northern plans to one day shift to biodiesel fuel—possibly made from used cooking oil generated by campus dining operations—to cut costs and align with the sustainability initiative outlined in the “Road Map to 2015” strategic plan.
Art Gischia (Business/Auxiliary Services) said the university was exploring a partnership last spring with Ag Solutions Inc. of Gladstone, which opened in 2006 as the state’s first commercial biodiesel processing plant. The effort was halted when the company’s owner passed away unexpectedly. Gischia said he will continue to work with Ag Solutions and perhaps the NMU chemistry department to develop an experimental program.
“We use about 4,500 gallons of cooking oil annually," Gischia said. "We’d like to see the product converted, processed and returned as biofuel to reduce fuel costs and burn a cleaner product. The goal eventually is to have a 1,000 gallon biofuel storage tank equipped with a fuel pump to transfer product into vehicle fuel tanks. The storage tank would sit within a containment cell—basically a large tray—that would contain any spillage.
“We had a conversation with NMU chemistry professor Susanne Williams about a pilot program that would fuel some of our grounds equipment. It would give students some valuable experience. Once you develop the process to clean the product, whether you mix it with diesel or use it as straight fuel, students could be involved in tracking usage and maybe testing the emissions.”
Gischia said NMU can learn from the experiences of other educational institutions, such as the University of Tulsa, that have already made the shift to biofuel.