College of Agricultural Sciences converts to biodiesel

April 29, 2004

University Park, Pa. -- It takes about 100,000 gallons of fuel annually to run the 200 trucks, tractors and pieces of agricultural equipment that make the 3,000 or so picturesque acres of Centre County farmland owned by Penn State productive.

And almost all of that fuel this year will be biodiesel -- 20 percent soybean oil.

Leaders in the College of Agricultural Sciences believe the move toward "green fuel" is important, for both symbolic and practical reasons. "We want folks to know the University is leading the way in greening up Pennsylvania's agriculture industry," said Glen Cauffman, manager of farm operations and facilities. "This is the right thing to do for our state's soybean growers, our environment and our country's independence from foreign oil."

Because biodiesel is made in the United States, it keeps fuel-buying dollars at home, and it is environmentally friendly. When burned in engines, biodiesel produces fewer emissions and smells like French fries. Studies indicate that adding vegetable oil to a fuel mixture extends engine life and makes engines run more smoothly.

"If more businesses and institutions used biodiesel, it would give Pennsylvania's soybean growers more outlets to sell their product," Cauffman said. "We think all university equipment will eventually use biodiesel, and we expect other businesses in Pennsylvania to make the conversion after Penn State demonstrates the viability."

Penn State's farms operate as businesses, raising crops as feed for the cattle and other livestock kept at the University for teaching and research. But even though biodiesel is more expensive than all-petroleum-based diesel fuel, Cauffman regards its use in college equipment as an investment in the state's future.

"We hope the price will come down as more biodiesel is used in Pennsylvania and the east and more distribution points are established," he said. "The B-20 (20 percent soy) fuel mixture we are burning in our equipment results in an 18 percent reduction in particulate emissions and a 13 percent reduction in carbon monoxide compared to regular diesel. The reductions in air pollution coming from the use of biodiesel are substantial."

Greg Roth, professor of agronomy and grain crops specialist, applauds the use of greener fuel. "I'm really pleased with the efforts of our farm operations team to use biodiesel," he said. "It sends a clear message to soybean growers in our state that we are serious about helping them to develop alternative markets for their crops and to develop an experience base for on-farm applications of biodiesel. It also reinforces the concept many policymakers are advocating of using renewable fuels for at least a portion of our energy consumption and developing a more diversified energy policy in the future."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009