photo contributed by Will Wrobel/ Marketing and Communications

Alex Harvey

Equinox Staff

On the morning of Wednesday, October 17, a shipment of vegetable oil arrived on the Keene State campus from Lifecycle Renewables, a recycling company based out of Boston, Massachusetts.

Bill Rymes, Supervisor of Plumbing and Heat Plant Operations for Keene State College said, “I have a full time boiler operator who reports to me, and he takes care of the day-to-day operations. I take care of things like working with the fuel selection, negotiating fuel contracts, coordinating large repairs, and the distribution of the steam out to the campus.”

In 2016, Keene State College became the first college or university in the United States to be heated with purified vegetable oil.

The use of the carbon-neutral biofuel marked a huge step in the college’s mission of achieving sustainability. The expense of heating the school with waste vegetable oil is close to the cost of heating the campus with number 6 fuel oil, which Keene State College had used previously. The vegetable oil is carbon-neutral, which means that it does not contribute to the school’s carbon footprint.

The vendor of Keene State’s vegetable oil is Lifecycle Renewables, which is on a renewable year contract. “They take the grease from fryolators on cruise ships, processing plants, rendering plants, production facilities, and then they filter it into straight vegetable oil and deliver it to us, and then we burn it,” Rymes said.  “This is our third heating season [with vegetable oil]. The first season we dedicated one boiler, and we ran it as a bit of a trial. So one boiler ran on vegetable oil and the other two stayed on 6 oil. And for the next heating season we brought on a second boiler, so two-thirds of our consumption was vegetable oil. And this year, we got to one hundred percent vegetable oil.”

Rory Gaunt, CEO for Lifecycle Renewables, explained the process of collecting grease and converting it into vegetable oil that can be used as fuel: “We collect the vegetable oil from the dining halls here and thousands of other customers in New England    you guys like french fries, which are very good, and there’s some leftover oil in those fryolators and at some point it goes rancid to a degree beyond what could be considered for a food perspective, and you guys dump it into a dumpster behind the establishment — whether it be a restaurant or a kitchen or what have you — and then our trucks come along on a periodic basis and collect it from the dumpster with a vacuum truck, and then we deliver it to our plant in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where it is converted into a fuel.”

Diana Duffy, the Director of Sustainability at Keene State College, emphasized the importance of renewable energy and fuel, as well as green initiatives in general. “Earth is this closed system, and it’s really quite fragile. But we’ve been neglecting how it operates for so long. And now it’s starting to tell us in so many ways that there are impacts.  And in my lifetime, I’m lucky if I’ve got forty years left. And I actually worry about what is going to happen in the next forty years, let alone the next four hundred.”

“It takes us off of fossil fuel. It meets the college’s goals for sustainable fuels, and it makes the plant a ‘green plant’ if you will. So that helps out with all of our sustainability goals, the energy goals, and it’s one of the few viable options that we were able to pursue,” Bill Rymes said when asked about the importance of alternative energy.

Alex Harvey can be contacted at

aharvey@kscequinox.com