A New Home for UW Biodiesel Cooperative: Construction of Permanent Lab Space

Project Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $89,682

Letter of Intent:

The University of Washington Biodiesel Cooperative is an undergraduate-led student organization that was established in 2010 as a way for students to become more involved in waste management and alternative energy through hands-on engineering experience. Currently, the UW Housing and Food Services sells their used cooking oil to the alternative energy company, Sequential Pacific, which transports the oil from Seattle to Portland, Oregon to be refined into biodiesel. The biodiesel is then transported to Seattle to be placed on the market. The UW Biodiesel Cooperative offers an alternative to this production method by the establishment of a closed loop system, in which the waste that is generated from on-campus restaurants is refined on campus, and then sold back to the campus community to be reused in transportation vehicles and other engines as an alternative to petroleum based diesel fuel. With the support of the Campus Sustainability Fund, the Biodiesel Cooperative aims to build a full scale biodiesel production facility on the grounds of Campus Motor Fleet property. This new facility will be modeled out of a large shipping container, and will contain a functioning biodiesel reactor that converts the waste cooking oil generated by the campus restaurants into biodiesel. In order to make this a reality, we will need financial support to cover the expense of building, permitting, and supplies. We will be in cooperation with Mark Miller and Ashley Kangas in the University Capitol Projects Office, and will also be collaborating with Mark Murray at the Environmental Health and Safety department to ensure that all safety codes and regulations are fulfilled. When compiled, these costs are substantial, and so we are proposing sponsorship of $85,000 to cover our startup expenses. Approximately $40,000 of this cost will cover the shipping container design and purchase, $20,000 will cover foundation and land preparation and the remaining costs will go to permitting and salaries for architects, inspections and planning services. Supporting the UW Biodiesel Co-Op will achieve the goals of the Campus Sustainability Fund by reducing emissions, eliminating waste, transitioning away from petroleum diesel and educating the community on alternative and green initiatives. The use of biodiesel relieves environmental impact on the University of Washington and the community as a whole by reducing carbon emissions, reducing fossil fuel use, and recycling waste oil into a useful resource. We aspire to increase recycling on campus by reducing reliance on pollution-generating modes of transportation. Biodiesel emits 78% less greenhouse gases than diesel fuel. Combustion of biodiesel additionally provides a 56% reduction of hydrocarbon emissions and shows a significant reduction in carbon monoxide when compared with conventional diesel fuel (EPA.gov), bringing the University of Washington one step closer to being a carbon neutral organization. The cooperative also provides University of Washington students with the unique opportunity to combine green energy management with engineering innovation. Built and driven entirely by undergraduates, the group promotes interest and education in the field of green energy engineering by involving students in a rich learning experience. Students proactively meet on a regular basis throughout the school year and engage in multiple activities that prepare them for future careers in the green energy field. Currently, the cooperative engages students by teaching them the basics to making and designing a functioning biodiesel reactor, and helps train them in lab safety procedures and experiment planning. In addition we have a team that works to help secure support and resources from various groups on campus and in the community. With a functioning lab, the student experience will be even further enriched by enabling them to run diagnostic tests, design processes from the ground up, and test procedures to ensure that our product is safe and environmentally friendly. In addition, by securing permanent lab space for the organization, we can ensure that waste oil produced by the university is handled responsibly and in an environmentally conscious way. The Biodiesel Cooperative will enrich the local community by providing education about the biodiesel industry and using waste vegetable oil as an alternative fuel source. In the past, the Cooperative has provided education to local high school science classrooms about the benefits of using biodiesel, and has reached out to local community colleges to provide a collaborative effort in alternative energy education. The Cooperative is also reaching out in an international context by connecting with a project in Jamaica that aims to produce biodiesel through the waste cooking oil generated by resort hotels. With a functioning reactor on campus, the cooperative can enhance this involvement by hosting informational sessions at our facility. Currently, we visit schools and tell them about waste oil conversion, but with a permanent space, we will be able to invite them to visit instead and actually see biodiesel made, from collection to engine. We believe that this type of hands-on experience is essential in building the future of environmentally conscious and green-thinking engineers. With the availability of a full scale lab space, the Biodiesel Cooperative will be able to inspire and enrich the undergraduate community by providing an impactful experience which will encourage students to pursue career paths in sustainable engineering. Students who are engaged in our project gain an understanding of alternative energy production, research, and commercialization, and leave our program better prepared to make a positive difference in the future of energy and sustainability. The UW Biodiesel Cooperative would be honored to receive the support of the Campus Sustainability Fund in their pursuit of a greener campus through the establishment of a permanent biodiesel production facility.

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Group Inactive