Keene State has broken new ground in fixing the country’s global warming dilemma.
KSC’s boilers are now running partially off of a biofuel known as LR-100. The substance is derived from vegetable oil waste and converted over to biofuel through a proprietary filtering process by a company known as Lifecycle Renewables. Currently, about 36 percent of the college’s fuel has been converted to the carbon-neutral, vegetable oil derived alternative. The steam produced from the oil is being used as the heating source for the college, making it the first college or university to do so in the country.
The fuel is obtained by the Boston-based company Lifecycle Renewables through a number of different sources, including restaurants and cruise ships who offer their used cooking oil to the company.
Aside from the new LR-100, the heat plant also burns a fossil fuel known as Number 6 oil, which, according to Director of Campus Sustainability Cary Gaunt, fails in comparison to the environmental friendliness of LR-100.
“It’s the most polluting kind of heating fuel we could possibly burn. I mean, it’s at the bottom of the barrel,” Gaunt said.
Chief Executive Officer for Lifecycle Renewables Rory Gaunt (no relation to Cary Gaunt) said the conversion from the nonrenewable to the new, cleaner fuel known as LR-100 is rather simple. He calls it a “drop-in” fuel, where boilers can burn the substance with only slight adjustments to the system.
“Whenever you want to have a big-impact renewable project, it typically takes a lot of capital expenditure on behalf of the user and change to make it work, and that’s just not the case with our fuel,” he said.
Rory later added that the oil is relatively energy and cost efficient. He estimated the initial cost to the school for installation of equipment to be around $10,000, but said that the school will likely save far more than that in the future with this new fuel.
According to both both Rory and Cary, the costs and efficiency of LR-1 00 and Number 6 are similar. Rory said that the cost of the fuel his company provides is competitively priced and shows a 12 percent discrepancy in the energy production per gallon compared to Number 6 oil. Both have zero emissions. However, two of the three boilers found in the heat plant are still exclusively burning Number 6 oil. Gaunt said that over time she would like to be able to further expand the usage of carbon neutral fuels that is after a year-long pilot period to ensure that the cost of the fuel is manageable and the fuel itself burns well.
“If all of those things work out and the heat plant loves the product and continues to love the product and it performs the way we want it, then when we renegotiate our contracts, I certainly hope that we will expand the use of LR-100,” Cary said.
KSC senior KSC eco-rep Scott Criscuolo said that she is pleased to see the school moving forward with environmentally friendly alternatives.
“I think that it’s just going to help the industry as a whole shift away from that and show that it is possible,” Criscuolo said.
He added that if this goes well for a larger scale location with many buildings to heat such as Keene State, it may show others that this renewable heat source is a viable option.
“Being able to do that is going to prove that this is possible. Like it’s not like some far out Idea, this is reality,” Criscuolo said.
The sustainability department held a open house at the heat plant on Oct. 14 to showcase the new biofuel to those interested. Cary said said that college’s like KSC should work to promote further efforts to protect the environment.
“I think higher ed[ucation] should be a leader in change; we don’t have a choice other than to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Cary said.
All in all, Cary said that the school should be proud to be able to reach a new milestone in campus sustainability in the United States.
Cary said, “I think that Keene State as a whole should feel really proud because it’s really rare to be the first in the nation to do something….By getting this LR-100 into our heat plant, that’s an on-the-ground demonstration of our commitment and I think we should feel really cool about that.”
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at email@example.com