Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A class of students at Havre High School are participating in a wave of the future that is getting high interest in the state: researching alternative energy. Merle Hoerner, the automotive instructor at Havre High, had students making biodiesel at the school Tuesday, saying the process can reduce waste from cooking oil while producing cleaner-burning fuel. “It makes perfect sense to me,” Horner said. He said that he attended a General Motors training seminar in Portland, Ore., a few years ago, and some of the topics discussed inlcuded alternative fuels like liquid propane, hydrogenpowered cars, ethanol, hybrid cars and biodiesel. “I thought, That’s something that’s very interestin. It makes perfect economic sense, perfect energy sense,” he said. This is the second year he has had students make biodiesel. He purchases cooking oil, obtains chemicals this year he used potassium hydroxide from the school’s chemistry department, and had some methanol, or automotive antifreeze, donated. The biodiesel can be made in a process using heat, but he prefers a cold process, he said. “It makes good environmental sense if we don’t have to waste energy to make energy. That would be the way of the future,” Hoerner said. He said the process can also use waste oil that normally would be thrown away by restaurants or cafeterias, reducing the amount ending up in dumps. When the mixture at the end of the process separates out, there are some impurities at the bottom and essentially lye soap at the top. Once the biodiesel is filtered out and washed, it can basically be put into a diesel vehicle’s tank and used immediately, Hoerner said. While car manufacturers recommend a mixture of biodiesel and diesel not to exceed 25 percent biodiesel, or the manufacturer’s warranty will be voided, Hoerner said, people could run their vehicles on nothing but biodiesel. He said the amount of biodiesel allowed under manufacturer’s warranty could increase, as has happened with ethanol over the years. He said he plans to continue having his students make biodiesel, and wants to extend the program when a biodiesel plant planned for construction in the Havre starts production. Hoerner said he would like to have people from that plant talk to his students, or possibly have the students tour the plant.