Local News

Used Oil Used To Fuel Chatham School Buses

Posted August 12, 2004

— When you think about frying oil, you might assume the job is done once french fries turn golden, but the oil gets rolled away to a new life.

A Chatham County co-op called

Piedmont Biofuels

converts the oil into 100 percent biodiesel. It is a clean, renewable fuel that you can pump into your car.

"We have a fraction of the emissions of other fuels. It's important from an economic development standpoint we can make it right here in North Carolina," said Lyle Estill of Piedmont Biofuels.

Piedmont Biofuels converts oil from Cisco Systems and other Triangle restaurants on the back porch of a trailer. After the oil is mixed with chemicals and washed several times, it becomes biodiesel.

You cannot get 100 percent biodiesel at a filling station, but the product is being used by the Chatham County school system. The entire fleet of buses runs on a 20 percent blend.

The co-op hopes it catches on beyond the school system and the dozens of other customers. One day, the bio-fuel could eliminate the need for foreign oil.

"It feels good to be running down the road on something you've made," Estill said.

One hundred percent biodiesel is pricey at $3.50 a gallon. The Chatham County school system pays for it with money from Triangle Clean Cities and the Department of Public Instruction. Durham County was the first in the state to use biodiesel in its buses.

This spring, the Environmental Protection Agency said eight counties in the area did not meet air quality standards. It suggested North Carolina push alternative fuel cars and public transportation.

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