Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Community-Based Biofuel Program

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Monroe County, New York

Federal Funding: $225,950
Project Timeline: February 2011 – December 2014

Project Summary

Using existing local waste streams to produce biodiesel has many benefits: it reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the fuel produced, while offsetting waste disposal costs. For the county utility, avoiding the costs of clogged pipes and sewer back-ups is an important benefit of collecting and converting waste grease to fuel. For a waste cooking oil (WCO) and grease facility to be economically attractive, however, significant amounts of waste oil and grease must be available. Monroe County, with technical support from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), established a centralized biodiesel production facility to convert WCO and grease from residents at the EcoPark and waste cooking oil and grease from RIT’s food service operations. The biodiesel was then used to replace petroleum-based diesel in the County's vehicle fleet, and to heat County buildings.

The County acquired the necessary equipment for fuel production and produced test batches of biodiesel to ensure it met all applicable standards and regulations, including achieving compliance with the American Society for Testing of Materials (ASTM) quality standards. After verifying the production process, the County collected waste oil from partnering facilities, converted that oil into biodiesel, and distributed the biodiesel to the County fleet. This ASTM-quality fuel was used in maintenance equipment operated by the Monroe County Department of Environmental Services, as well as two facilities vehicles at RIT. The product was also used in space heating operations, and experiments showed no change in performance when the space heating equipment used No. 2 heating oil versus biodiesel.

The conversion process produced a 1:4 ratio of biodiesel to glycerol, so another major component of the project was to find a way to use the glycerol. The project involved converting the glycerol to glycerin that could be used in commercial products such as cosmetics. Glycerin was also utilized to create hand and body soap.

Results of a life cycle assessment suggested that increasing the percentage of biodiesel in the fuel blend would help to decrease GHG emissions. Values for energy return on investment were consistent with published research on large-scale biodiesel systems. Thus, this project indicates that small-scale biodiesel production also can be economically viable.

Lastly, the project involved workshops and other outreach activities to raise awareness of the research and results of the biodiesel conversion. Activities also included a presentation at the New York Water Environment Association in New York City and four years of participation in an annual innovation fair at RIT.

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Community Characteristics 

Population:                                 733,703

Area:                                         659.29 square miles

Government Type:                       County

Community Type:                        Mixed

Median household income:           $51,105

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Final Results

Projected Cumulative Results  

Annual GHG Reductions

1.1 mt CO2e

60 mt CO2e

Replacement of Diesel with Biodiesel

120 gallons

7,000 gallons

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Lessons Learned

  • Initially, the project was scheduled to last two years (2011-2013), but a few factors influenced the extension of the project through December 2014, including shifts in priorities at MC-DES and significant variability in raw WCO quality. The project achieved a majority of the goals and timelines established in the original proposal.

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  • At least two students at RIT conducted thesis research about biofuel conversion for this project. Project partners at RIT are exploring the concept of continuing the biodiesel fuel and soap production, but no official commitment had been made at the time of the final report to EPA.

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Project Websites

Monroe County’s EcoPark

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