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French fry grease turned into fuel

• West Ranch students learn how to make biodiesel fuel in chemistry

Posted: June 8, 2008 1:53 a.m.
Updated: August 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
A lot of people complain about the skyrocketing price of gasoline, but a West Ranch High School chemistry teacher, with the help of his students, decided to do something about it.

After gathering used vegetable oil from a local Burger King, teacher Benjamin Scott taught his students how to turn the leftover french fry grease into biodiesel fuel.

"It took a couple of weeks, and in between we would stop and talk about the chemistry and the process behind it," Scott said. "Mainly I wanted them to learn that what they learn in chemistry can be applied to their real lives, and also how we can find a lot of solutions through science."

To test the students' fuel, William S. Hart Union High School District Transportation Mechanic Brad Renison brought a diesel generator hooked up to a lawn mower to the school Wednesday. Ruben Martinez, from DieselAir, tested the emissions using an opacity meter.

"Last year, we found that the student-produced fuel burned cleaner than the standard petroleum diesel," Scott said.

After Renison and Martinez performed a test run with regular diesel to use as a control, the students lined up with their jars of biodiesel, waiting anxiously to find out if their fuel would actually start the engine, and then, if it would burn cleaner than the regular diesel.

Junior Trenten Yokofich said it was "awesome" to learn how to make a fuel that people could actually use, and felt confident that his team's fuel would work.

"We worked really hard on it and we spent a lot of time on it, so I'm sure it will work," Trenten said. "If we could make a lot of this, we could sell it for about 55 cents a gallon. Plus, it burns cleaner, it's renewable and it will help the environment."

Tenth grader Kate Armstrong presented the first jar of fuel to be tested The fuel was converted by Kate and her teammates Connor Sutton, Charles Hoole, Henry Arroyo and Alexa Binder.

"I'm more excited than I am nervous, because I really hope ours works - it will be really great to see our project come to life," Kate said.

After Renison poured the student's fuel into the generator, the engine roared to life. Martinez' emission test showed that the fuel made by Kate and company cut the emissions in half compared to the regular diesel.

"So her fuel, made from Burger King leftovers, burned twice as clean as regular diesel," Scott said, looking at a printout of the results.

Scott recently found out that he is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from BP America, a global energy provider, for his project, "The Chemistry of Biodiesel." He plans to use the money to make the program bigger and better next year.

Even Renison was impressed with the results of the tests on the student-produced fuel.

"It surprised me that the machines run as well as they do," the mechanic said. "You can hardly tell the difference at all."

Kate and her team were thrilled with the results.

"I can't believe it worked out so well," she said. "It makes me feel like I accomplished something and helped the world out just a little bit."

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