Biodiesel is no longer just made from plant resources. Scientists in Nevada have found a new way to make biodiesel out of chicken feather meal. This advancement could take some of the resource competition out of the biodiesel industry. Currently, most biodiesel is made from soy and vegetable oil, which is also a human food source. Chicken feather meal is not used as a human food source; it is used as a fertilizer and as a component of animal feed because of the high protein content.
With current amounts of chicken feather meal that is being created in the US, 153 million gallons of biodiesel could be synthesized annually. 593 million gallons could be created worldwide out of chicken feather meal. Also, in the process for synthesizing biodiesel out of feather meal only uses the fat content that can be extracted from the meal, and that turns the remainder of the chicken feather meal that is unused into a higher grade animal feed and a better fertilizer.
Chicken feather meal is made from processed chicken feathers, blood, and innards. All of these ingredients are a waste byproduct of the poultry industry. They are processed under pressure at high temperatures.
A late 2009 study found that biodiesel gives more energy back to the earth than it takes in its synthesis. The study, done by the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Idaho, found that for every unit of energy that it takes to produce biodiesel, 4.5 units is returned to the earth. When conducting this study, the researchers took into account all aspects of biodiesel synthesis and mathematically compared it to the process that yields petroleum.
The study was based on biodiesel synthesized from soybean oil, which is the resource used most commonly to make biodiesel. Energy is saved because the main source of energy used to grow soybeans is solar. The modern soybean also needs fewer pesticides than in the past and it also has the ability to grow in fields that are not as thoroughly tilled as previously needed, which saves energy. Biodiesel can also be synthesized from recycled resources, like used cooking oil, which would raise the positive energy outcome even more.
There was a similar study done by the USDA in 1998 that also showed a positive energy balance for biodiesel – 3.2 units as opposed to the 0.84 units from petroleum diesel. The energy efficiency of biodiesel has improved while the efficiency of petroleum diesel remains about the same.
As environmentalists continue to follow the model of ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ scientists continue to find ways of recycling waste products. One of the newest developments in the recycling aspect of the slogan involves turning chicken feather meal into biodiesel fuel. It is estimated that there is 11 billion pounds of poultry waste that is produced annually and just accumulates. This is because chicken feathers are not able to be stuffed into pillows, so the feathers as well as the other waste products (the innards and blood) are turned into a low-grade animal feed.
Scientists in Nevada paid attention to the fact that chicken meal has a fat content of 12%. To remove the fat from the chicken meal the meal is put in boiling water and then the fat is processed into biodiesel fuel. This process is advantageous for the obvious environmental reason of providing another source of alternative fuel, but by removing the fat from the chicken meal it actually makes the animal feed remains a higher grade and it also turns the chicken meal into being a better fertilizer.
Based on the scientists production methods and the annual amount of chicken meal produced on a yearly basis it is estimated that within the U.S. 153 million gallons of biodiesel fuel could be made. On a global scale there would be potential for creating 593 million gallons of biodiesel. Although this is an outstanding number, it is relatively small compared to the amount of fuel consumed on a yearly basis which stands around 4 billion gallons. Nonetheless, it is important for developments to continue in areas of recycling waste products. If more developments are made, the millions of gallons will slowly add up and present themselves as a viable fuel alternative.
School buses in one school district in Michigan have been running on B20 (20% biodiesel) since 2002, and since that time, the bus maintenance team has noticed a major improvement in the health of the buses’ moving parts. Recently a St. John’s district school bus completed its 300,000th mile, a feat never before achieved in a Michigan school district.
Engines that are fueled by biodiesel are able to go longer between oil changes. The mechanics in St. John have been able to go from changing the oil every 6,000 miles to 12,000-18,000 miles. This saves the school district money on oil and filters. These savings are due to the biodiesel lubricating the moving parts in an engine better than average diesel fuel.
Using biodiesel not only improves the health of the school buses, the students and the drivers of the buses also stand to benefit from vehicles running on biodiesel. Using biodiesel has been proven to have fewer harmful emissions than regular diesel. Its health benefits have been recorded from its use in mines across the United States, miners’ respiratory health has improved with the use of biodiesel. In fact, school districts using biodiesel have reported fewer students complaining of headaches and fewer missed school days. Students that are riding in a school bus running average diesel are exposed to exhaust levels that are higher than the level considered to pose a cancer risk. The diesel exhaust levels recorded inside a running school bus are 23 – 46 times higher then the level identified to pose a cancer risk.
Overall using biodiesel in school buses has a positive environmental impact, a positive health impact, and a positive financial impact. It stands to reason that more school systems should consider the switch to biodiesel.
Enterprise Rent a Car company leads the way toward the incorporation of cleaner burning fuels into its fleet of cars. Over the next five years, the company is going to convert its entire shuttle bus fleet to B20, a 20 percent biodiesel mixture. It has already converted its fleets that are in high profile, metropolitan areas like Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago.
Enterprise Holdings has the biggest fleet of buses, cars, and trucks in the world today. It is the only rental car company that is investment-grade. It has the potential to pave the way for equal companies to adopt the use of cleaner fuels. It is important for powerful companies to pursue environmental protection initiatives because they are also usually the biggest culprits of environmental harm.
Enterprise is following the goal set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to have renewable fuel use at an average 36 billion gallons by 2022. The EPA also requires that 1.15 gallons of biodiesel be used in the US by the end of 2010, because biodiesel has the best environmental track record of any other mass-produced renewable fuel.
Biodiesel is a clean burning fuel that is able to be made from fresh or used vegetable oil, and can also be derived from animal fats and plant oils. B20, 20 percent biodiesel mixed with petroleum, can be used in any diesel engine without any modifications being made to the engine.