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June 21, 2012

Blinn donates 100 gallons of biodiesel to Brenham ISD

Blinn students convert used cooking oil into fuel for Brenham buses

KAGS HD News report by Jenny Walsh

Blinn College literally gave back to Brenham ISD this morning.

The College donated about 100 gallons of biodiesel for Brenham ISD to use in its school buses during a brief ceremony at the Durham School Services facility.

Throughout the recent school year, Blinn College faculty and students, led by Natural Sciences Professor Dr. Greg Phillips and geology Professor Dr. Cynthia Lawry, demonstrated to Brenham students how used cooking oil could be turned into biodiesel by simply adding methanol and potassium hydroxide. When the chemicals are mixed with the oil, they snap off the glycerin particle of the fat, leaving the biodiesel behind. The whole process takes just 15 minutes.

After the glycerin has been removed, water is poured through the biodiesel to remove impurities before it is ready for use. Engine manufacturers recommend blending 80 percent regular diesel with 20 percent biodiesel.

“Our students are motivated by participating in the hands-on experience Blinn and Dr. Phillips offer them,” Brenham Middle School teacher Janis Kmiec said following one such demonstration in February. “They understand society’s need for alternative energy sources, so they’re very interested in programs such as this.”

Blinn gets its used cooking oil from the College cafeteria and other donations. In addition to the demonstrations to Brenham ISD students throughout the year, Blinn College geology classes convert cooking oil into biodiesel as part of their studies.

Phillips said the biodiesel typically costs about $1 per gallon for Blinn to produce. With the national average price for diesel fuel at $3.72 per gallon, Blinn’s donation to Brenham ISD is valued at almost $400.

“Brenham ISD is excited about Blinn's biodiesel donation and will continue its support of the program,” said Brenham ISD Director of Student Services Jon Forsythe. “BISD enjoys working with the students, staff and administration at Blinn College.”

The biodiesel project is part of Blinn’s Service Learning program, which combines community service with classroom instruction or student club activities, focusing on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility to engage students. Service Learning involves students in activities that address local needs while developing their academic or professional skills and commitment to their community.

From left: Durham-Brenham General Manager Cheryl Tiemann, Blinn-Brenham Service Learning Coordinator Dr. Greg Phillips, Brenham Middle School students Hayden and Evan Schroeder, Brenham ISD Director of Student Services Jon Forsythe, Brenham ISD Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Byron McAdams and Durham Area Safety Conductor Sam Matta.