By Crystal Thompson
A group of four diesel mechanic students at Montana State University-Northern has spent most of the semester creating biodiesel from recycled vegetable oil.
As part of MSU-N instructor Greg Hester's pollution prevention class, students Matt Hall, Jess Bandel, Darin Toavs and Josh Nikolaisen set out to run a diesel engine on 100 percent biodiesel. They researched several studies on creating and utilizing biodiesel and, working on what Hall called a "shoestring budget", made it happen.
Because there was no university funding for this first-time project, the group created and borrowed the equipment needed to complete the task. They gathered used fryer oil from local restaurants to convert into diesel. By heating, straining and adding methanol to the oil, the students were able to create an effective fuel, which was then used to run an engine.
The benefit of biodiesel is twofold. Besides providing a second use for leftover cooking grease, biodiesel burns cleaner emissions and is more environmentally friendly than regular diesel.
The students said that they basically started the project for their own benefit, just to see if it could be done.
Now that they proved that it works, they hope funding will be available in the future to further explore biodiesel technology at MSU-Northern.