Green Chemistry Visits Newport Biodiesel Facility

Mrs. Susan McCarthy's green chemistry class was able to see sustainable energy in action when they toured Newport Biodiesel to learn about the biodiesel fuel manufacturing process. Newport Biodiesel works with local companies and households in the Aquidneck Island area to take used cooking oil and turn it into clean-burning fuel. Biodiesel fuel burns 90% cleaner with respect to carbon dioxide emissions than conventional diesel fuel. Among its many clients in the area, the Portsmouth Abbey dining hall repurposes their used cooking oil to Newport Biodiesel, which is how Mrs. McCarthy first learned about the company.  

During the tour, students were able to see the equipment up close, including the reaction vessels, the distillation column, storage tanks and catalytic oxidizer; this brought chemistry to life in a practical application. The students were especially impressed by how clean the operations and storage tanks area were and how well run the facility was. The tour was inspiring, and the class was energized by being on site and seeing the operations at such a large scale.

The green chemistry students now want to do a research project to find a good use for the crude by-product, glycerol. Blake Banky, Biodiesel president and parent of alumna Dani Banky '14, generously offered to supply the class with the distilled raw material (where all harmful agents, like methanol, are removed) so it will be perfectly safe for the class's research.

"We thank Newport Biodiesel for educating Portsmouth Abbey students on renewable energy and offering firsthand knowledge in our research" - Susan McCarthy