ISU employee creates alternative source of energy

local man creates bio-diesel


The grease from your fast food could soon start powering your cars, and one Pocatello man is making his own bio-diesel out of kitchen grease.

Robert "Robin" Colling discovered as way to help convert Idaho State University's fryer grease into a source of alternative energy. It all started when when he was working as the university's superintendent of custodial services and he had noticed large amounts of french fry grease being dumped down the drain.

"I looked at it and thought, that's quite a lot of oil that we should be able to do something with, so that got me to thinking," Colling said, who is now the ISU Environmental and Safety Manager.

He then consulted his son who is currently a chemistry major at the university, and after hours of research, the two of them had finally created one liter of bio-diesel exactly one year ago from today.

Colling then consulted the university's Energy Systems Technology and Education Center to help perfect the bio-diesel-making process.

"You put waste oil in one end and you get diesel oil out of the other end," ISU's ESTEC Department Chair Lawrence Beaty explained. "It's a continuous process."

Before it goes through this process, the grease needs to be cleansed from any food particles that may have been left over. Those who work in the Rendevous kitchen empty the used grease into a giant drum Collings and his son created which catches the food particles through a sieve at the top, and the clean oil is dispensed through a spigot at the bottom before it is then taken to the processor.

Collings also mentioned everything used in the process of creating the bio-diesel is recycled material itself. Not only is the entire process green, but the university vehicles that already use this source of alternative energy are used for recycling purposes as well.

Most likely, if you happen to see one of these bio-diesel cars putting around campus, it is not just your imagination if you happen to smell similar to your breakfast.

"If we have fry oil, then it smells like french fries. If you have oil from frying bacon, it smells like bacon," Beaty said.

Colling calculated the cost of producing one gallon of bio-diesel coming out to just 96-cents, which is far below the average price of gas. He also said he collects roughly 40-gallons of grease each month from only one kitchen on campus, which produces an equivalent number of gallons of bio-diesel. He plans on expanding his collection outreach to all three kitchens on campus.

Colling will continue to experiment and create new ways to save the university money while going green, but he said in the meantime, we will just have to wait and see what new innovations he has up his sleeve.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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