Dickinson Biodiesel Project
-Contact Us
-Related Links
On Campus
-Mission & History
-Current Initiatives
-Contests & Events
More Information
-Hot Topics
-Reading List
-Photo Archive

Dickinson Biodiesel Project
Students or faculty who are interested in learning more about the biodiesel project are encouraged to contact us for a tour, demonstration, work-study position, or internship. The plant is not open to the off-campus public at this time. However, we encourage you to read over the information on this web page, and to follow the links listed below for more information.
The image above shows three storage tanks for waste vegetable oil (right), the preheat tank for waste vegetable oil (center back), the main reactor (left back), and the small reactor used to recover methanol from the glycerine byproduct (left front).
Mission - Project - Top
Dickinson College has invested in the Biodiesel Project in order to help the campus approach sustainability in operations. The primary intention of the Biodiesel Project is to provide students with hands-on learning experiences in renewable energy technology, provide campus vehicles with an environmentally sustainable alternative to diesel fuel, and allow the school to use a foodservice waste product to reduce air polluting emissions and its Carbon footprint. The project prides itself in promoting biodiesel production that is responsible, safe, energy efficient, and compliant with regulations.
History - Project - Top
The Beginning
The Dickinson Biodiesel shop was founded in the spring of 2006 when students Jennie Bernstein, ’06 and Kim Ogren, ’08 began researching biofuels and the involved reaction processes. The first batches of fuel were made by Jennie and Greg Ellerman II, ’07. The Facilities Management staff was essential to the early success and development of the project.
The Biodiesel Project is a fundamental part of Dickinson 's commitment to environmental sustainability. The project makes use of a waste product, while reducing the campus demand for non-renewable petroleum fuel. Biodiesel fuel is significantly cleaner burning than petroleum, and its use thereby helps to reduce air quality problems in the Cumberland Valley (The US EPA has found that Biodiesel drastically reduces soot, diesel particulate matter, carbon monoxide, oxides of sulfur, and carcinogenic hydrocarbons when compared with petroleum diesel). Production and use of biodiesel results in an 80% lifecycle reduction of carbon dioxide emissions when compared with fossil fuels, which aids in our campus goal of reducing our impact on global climate change. And lastly, biodiesel production on site from waste fryer oil is very energy efficient: we gain over 6 units of energy in fuel for every one unit of non-renewable energy invested in the process.
Student Research
Research opportunities are abundant in the shop and in the classroom. The chemistry department has used samples of the biodiesel to give students experience in titration methods and quality testing. During the summer of 2008, interns are investigating the issues of methanol recovery, energy balancing, composting with glycerin, soap production, and anaerobic (biogas) digestion.
Grant Award
The Biodiesel Project is a recent recipient of a grant from the Keystone Innovation Zone initiative. This funding allows the shop to research economical and sustainable means of using the glycerin byproduct.
Operations - Project - Top

Located in the Facilities Management building near main campus, the biodiesel plant provides an excellent hands-on educational resource for students and campus personnel. By combining concepts from Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Environmental Science, and Biology with practical skills in pipe fitting, plumbing, carpentry, mechanics, and electrical systems, the biodiesel plant gives students real-world experience as they learn. The support of the project by staff experts from the campus plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and vehicle maintenance shops ensures that systems are state-of-the-art, efficient, and safe to operate. The Biodiesel Project is an example of how academic disciplines can collaborate with campus operations to meet physical needs of the College, while providing a valuable educational experience. The plant is primarily run by trained students, with supervision by dedicated staff members.

The Dickinson College Biodiesel Project collects used fryer oil from several food service establishments located around Carlisle , PA. Each week, between 50 and 150 gallons of used fryer oil are converted to biodiesel for use in the College garbage truck, lawn mowers, farm equipment, and other diesel engines. Surplus fuel is also sometimes used in campus heating appliances.

Current Iniatives - Project - Top
Glycerol Research
In order to reduce waste, the Dickinson College Biodiesel Project has been in the process of researching and testing ways to use the crude glycerol (glycerin) byproduct sustainably. See the Biodiesel Information page for detailed information about our glycerol research .
Soap Production
In recent years, students began experimenting with soap production. Today, the shop can produce as much as nine gallons of soap for each 54 gallons of waste vegetable oil processed into biodiesel.
The difference between solid bar soap and liquid hand soap lies in the lye. KOH based glycerin will produce liquid hand soap. Our liquid soap recipe has proven to be an excellent cleanser, and the final product is being sold at our on-campus book store. The hard bar soap is produced using NaOH based glycerin. Both soaps are great grease cutters, and they also remove the oils from poison ivy. Students are now in the process of determining whether biodiesel soap can be used as a viable alternative to commercial laundry and dishwashing detergents.
Another potential way to make use of the glycerin byproduct is to add it to compost piles. Interns at the biodiesel shop are currently researching the affects of adding different amounts glycerin to compost at the Dickinson College Farm. Their goal is to determine whether glycerin provides any benefit to the composting process. They hope that their findings will aid in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s approval of adding glycerin to compost.
The image above shows the settling tank (top right), the wash tank (top center), the dry tank (top left), and the fuel storage tank (bottom).
Current Interns - Internships - Top

Brandon Jones
School: Dickinson College 2009
Major: Physics, English

Internship Focus(es): Production, Energy Balance

Andrew Kamerosky
School: Dickinson College 2010
Major: Environmental Science
Internship Focus(es): Methanol Recovery - when brewing biodiesel more methanol than is needed is added to force the reaction to completion, which leaves methanol in the biodiesel and glycerol byproduct, so by using heat distillation with various techniques and equipment this extra methanol is recovered and reusing it in production; Biogas Digestor - The biodiesel process creates a lot of the glycerol byproduct which needs to be disposed of, so one option is using anerobic digestion with methanogenic bacteria to produce methane from the glycerol for various domestic uses

Sam Parker
School: Dickinson College 2012
Major: Environmental Science

Intership Focus(es): Production, Efficiency and Glycerine Composting

Sam Wheeler
School: Dickinson College 2010
Major: Physics

Intership Focus(es): Biodiesel Production

Amy Woolf
School: Dickinson College 2012
Major: Biology

Intership Focus(es): Biodiesel Production
Former Interns - Internships - Top
Christopher Bergen
School: Dickinson College 2012
Major: Environmental Science (intended)
Internship Focus(es): Production and System Efficiency
Jamie L. Panunzio
School: Saint Anselm College 2009
Major: Biology with certificates in Fine Arts and Forensics
Internship Focus(es): Biogas production from glycerin with anaerobic digesters; Compost testing to determine the effects of adding glycerol to compost (One with cucumber seeds in different concentrations of compost with glycerol, one with berlese funnels to see how different levels of glycerol in the compost affects the compost fauna, and the Minnesota z test, the effect of different levels of glycerin has on worms by measuring their weight); Testing how adding glycerin affects the temperature of compost piles (compost can get to over 150 degrees, and last year it was found that piles with glycerin made the piles hotter faster); Assisting in soap production
Kelly Maurer
School: Dickinson College 2010
Major: Physics
Internship Focus(es): Energy Balance
Sarah Gold
School: Dickinson College 2010
Major: Biology
Internship Focus(es): Production, Methanol Recovery, Biogas Digestors, Glycerin Composting
Becoming An Intern - Internships - Top
Section Coming Soon
Waste Vegetable Oil Pick Up
Current Participants - Pick Up - Top

The following are organizations that we currently pick up waste vegetable oil from:

  • Dickinson College Dining Services (Carlisle, PA)
  • Gettysburg College Dining Services (Gettysburg, PA)
  • Carlisle Army War College (Carlisle, PA)
  • Army Barracks Golf Course (Carlisle, PA)
  • Miseno's Restaurant (Carlisle, PA)
  • Bonanza's Restaurant (Carlisle, PA)
  • Groucho's Big Room Diner (Carlisle, PA)
  • Young's Deli (Blosserville, PA)
  • Issei Noodles (Carlisle, PA)
Requesting A Pick Up - Pick Up - Top
If you are currently participating in our pick up service, please call us at 717-245-1212. We will respond promptly to your requests, but it may take a day or two for us to make a pick up, so please do not wait until your barrels are overflowing!
Join Our Pick Up Service - Pick Up - Top
If you are an organization located in the greater Carlisle area that regularly needs to dispose of large quantities of waste vegetable (fryer) oil, please email us or call us at 717-245-1212 to inquire about our services. Please let us know the name of your organization, your address, and the name and information of your contact person. We will test your oil to make sure that it can be used in our process. If your oil passes the test, we will deliver empty barrels for you to fill with oil. Then simply call us when the barrels are full, and we will replace them with empty ones free of charge!
Contact Us
Please direct all general inquiries to our new Biodiesel Project email account.
Also, feel free to contact any of us if you have any specific questions regarding the Biodiesel Shop at Dickinson:

Bill Shoemaker
Biodiesel Project Supervisor
via email

Matt Steiman
Technical Consultant
via email
Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA 17013
Return Home!