Sep 21, 2011

Alligator Diesel

The cutting room floor at a factory in Eunice, La., that processes alligator meat. The leftover fat may have a novel use.

Researchers at the Lafayette campus of the University of Louisiana are looking for green substitutes for diesel fuel. The prime one now in use is soybeans, which are used to make biodiesel oil. But soybeans are also needed for human consumption and animal feed. The United States uses 45 billion gallons of diesel a year; making just one billion gallons from soybeans would use up 21 percent of the American crop, the scientists point out.

Now the researchers think they have identified a potential source for biodiesel that currently goes straight to landfills: alligator fat, about 15 million pounds of it every year.  In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Industrial Engineering Chemistry Research, Dr. Bajpai and five collaborators report on lab experiments in which they converted 61 percent of the alligator fat to liquids that would be usable in biofuel.
Some 15 million pounds could become 1.25 million gallons of fuel, with an energy content about 91 percent as great as that of petroleum diesel. A large plant could produce the fuel at $2.40 a gallon, Dr. Bajpai said, not counting the cost of the fat, which would presumably be zero, or the cost of transporting the fat to the plant.

And for each gallon of biodiesel produced, the refinery would also make a few ounces of glycerol, a chemical valuable in industry, he said.



  1. That is brilliant. Taking something that is otherwise useless and turning it into a precious commodity.

  2. Wait. Are they killing gators for that fat? I'm against that.

  3. Yea... I'm not sure slaughtering animals for oil is such a great idea. Yes, alligators are hunted for food and leather, but honestly, the market is very small and tightly controlled. Larger alligators (the ones with the most fat) are quite territorial and require huge amounts of space to prosper. Because of this, alligator populations are quite sensitive, and can be quickly affected by weather changes, overpopulation, and over hunting. I've no doubt that the university can create oil from gator fat in a small scale, but I would bet that the infrastructure and cost of raw materials would make large scale production of oil impractical.

    They should spend their time trying to figure out how to make plastic bottles from all the crushed sugar cane that they currently burn!

  4. I think the article was fairly explicit that this is fat that is a byproduct of extant uses of alligator, and is currently just being thrown away.

  5. Well now that is pretty darn smart!

  6. Ken you know I wouldn't support the exploitation of animals, but they are harvesting materials from a current waste-stream which is a smart action.


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