With the high cost of fuel, districts and bus companies across the country are looking for ways to offset budget shortfalls.
Warwick (N.Y.) Valley Central School District has found a way to do just that. In addition to all the obvious ones — reducing idling, combining stops and reduction of trips — the district is now turning waste into profit. How they are doing this is simple: Their buses are running on a mixture of old deep-fryer oil and diesel.
As Director of Transportation Robert Zeller explained, it all started with his business official, Tom Gustainis, complaining about the lack of a way to dispose of the deep-fryer oil in the cafeteria. This got Zeller thinking. The diesel engine was designed originally to run on peanut oil. Keeping this in mind, he approached Leonard Bus Sales, the district’s dealer, to see if International Truck and Engine Corp. had any experience with this topic. Within minutes, the transportation department had a tech bulletin on its fax machine explaining just what mixture was acceptable.
When it started, Zeller was hopeful to get 100 gallons per month. Excited about this project, his office staff quickly exceeded this goal and found that local restaurants and delis were very eager to help. The district is currently processing 600 to 700 gallons a month. By calculating with the current price of fuel for 10 months, Zeller said the district is looking at a payback of $15,300 plus.
A regular pickup was established that takes about one hour a week for collection, and processing is about the same. When the oil comes in, it is dumped and screened into a large holding tank. From this tank, oil is blended to mix at 20 percent vegetable oil and 80 percent petroleum-based diesel fuel. Filtering is achieved when pumping into the tanks of the buses through an inline filter (25 microns), then through the normal filter on the bus.
To ensure that the fuel additive used in the fleet would give added results, Zeller contacted the district’s K100-D supplier. The supplier found that since the additive is a natural compound and the lubricity of vegetable oil is high, the additive becomes very compatible with vegetable oil and works well.
In monitoring of performance, the district found that the difference in power output was slight. As one driver put it, “I had to press a little more on the acceleration when climbing a hill.” But there have been no other complaints from the drivers. Many have actually found the fuel to have an inviting odor of French fries.
The community of Warwick has embraced the idea and has joined the project. Most restaurants would normally pay to dispose of the oil, so in the end, everyone saves or profits from it. One of the school board members suggested offering a dropoff for everyone in the community who has cooking oil from home.
What’s even better is that vegetable oil has cleaner emissions and is good for the engine. Compared to regular diesel, vegetable oil has massively less sulfur, so there’s less sulfur dioxide emitted. Sulfur dioxide is one of the pollutants that make kids wheezy, so this cuts the contribution to childhood asthma. The profits from the usage of vegetable oil are not limited to the amount of money saved.
Submitted by Robert Zeller
Director of Transportation Warwick Valley (N.Y.) Central School District