Sat, Feb

Father helps school switch to biodiesel

Cottonwood News

The father of a 7-year-old Oak Creek School student decided he could do something to help lower costs at the school his daughter enjoys attending by making bus service cheaper.

Mike Rogers, fearful Oak Creek School might be closed because of money problems, recently formed a nonprofit corporation and started organizing donors to help the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District switch from using standard diesel fuel to biodiesel.Cornville resident Mike Rogers explains how biodiesel refinery trailers could work to save the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District between $20,000 and $40,000 annually.

Rogers, who lives with his wife and three children in Cornville, formed Biodiesel U.S. as a vehicle to purchase the equipment needed to create diesel fuel from used cooking oil donated by local restaurants. Rogers also waits tables at an upscale Sedona eating establishment.

“The first diesel engine ran off peanut oil,” Rogers said. “Any diesel engine can run on biodiesel with little or no modification.”

A local biodiesel processing company has agreed to assemble the equipment needed to turn cooking oil into fuel for the cost of materials. Even without the cost of labor and engineering know-how, however, the project will cost as much as $35,000 to get off the ground.

For that money, Biodiesel U.S. would be able to purchase pumps, the processing equipment, a truck and trailer to transport it, and drums to store the fuel, Rogers said.

The savings for COCSD would be dramatic, he said.

Locally, the cost of diesel fuel is hovering around $3 per gallon. Biodiesel, on the other hand, would cost the distract a fraction of that, or about $.60 per gallon on average.

The process is fairly simple, Rogers said.

First, the donated waste cooking oil will be collected by pumping it from storage containers set out by local restaurants. Next, the oil is blended with a mixture of methanol and lye, which causes animal and vegetable fats in the oil to separate from the fuel.

The fatty liquid, known as glycerin, sinks to the bottom. The top layer is biodiesel, which can be siphoned off and stored to fuel school buses.

As an added benefit, the processing unit, which is situated inside a trailer, can act as a mobile classroom and travel from school to school demonstrating the chemical reaction that creates the fuel, Rogers said.

Rogers is currently working to get his nonprofit approved as a 501(c)(3) organization, which would qualify donations to Biodiesel U.S. to be treated as tax deductible.

Roger said he hopes to have money for the project collected in early 2011 and have the biodiesel mobile processor up and running in time for spring. Several fundraisers are in the planning stages, he said.

In addition to all this, Rogers is working full-time and helping raise his three children, Natalee, 7, Zoe, 3, and Colton, 1.

“I’m a pretty busy guy these days,” he said.

For more information, e-mail mike@biodiesel.org.