Sep 21, 2011
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.