No Waste, Much Gain with Viesel Production
by Michelle Simmons
June 29, 2010
During Dickinson’s recent sustainability symposium, Stuart Lamb ’64 visited the college’s central energy plant to check on the steam boiler retrofitted to burn his trademarked alternative fuel, Viesel.
Several years ago, Stuart Lamb ’64 decided to do something about his company’s astronomical fuel bills. “It was one of those moments when you get a little bit angry, and it inspires you to say, ‘I can do it another way, and I can make a difference,’ ” said the owner of Cooke’s Environmental Services, a waste-management firm based in Stuart, Fla.
What he did was develop Viesel, a highly filtered biofuel made from waste-vegetable oil that burns more cleanly and efficiently than regular diesel or natural gas. “It’s a process that has historical roots,” he explained. “When they first manufactured the diesel engine around 1900, the fuel for the engine was peanut oil. So we’ve kind of gone back to our roots.”
The company’s tanker trucks collect waste oil from restaurants and organizations throughout Florida, including turnpike service plazas and the Palm Beach International Airport. The oil then undergoes a 10-day refining process, resulting in more than 50,000 gallons a week of Viesel. For the last two years, Lamb has been fueling thecompany’s fleet, as well as his own Mercedes, with it. “We also supply other truck fleets and ocean-going vessels,” he said.
Lamb was on campus April 15–17 as one of several alumni and other environmental experts participating in a sustainability symposium hosted by Dickinson’s Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education. Lamb is turning the college on to this renewable resource—what he calls “liquid solar energy”—to fuel one of two steam boilers in its central energy plant. The plant accounts for 60 percent of the heat on campus and almost 30 percent of Dickinson’s fuel-combustion emissions.
“The beauty of it is there are no waste products,” said Ken Shultes ’89, interim vice president of campus operations, adding that using the biofuel will cut more than 850 metric tons of CO2 per year from Dickinson’s carbon footprint, nearly 5 percent of the college’s total emissions. Smarter Fuels, an associate firm of Cooke’s based in Bethlehem, Pa., will collect the waste oil, refine it and deliver it to Carlisle.
After some minor retrofitting, the boiler was tested in March. The college also is considering Viesel as an electricity option through the use of electrical generators. As the first institution in the country to try Viesel as fuel oil, “Dickinson has a sustainability culture, and this complements all the other sustainability efforts,” said Lamb, who sees it as a pilot project and opportunity to lead the alternative-fuel movement. “What we need to do is take Viesel and displace natural gas or other fuels in industrial settings,” he said. “You can use it in boilers that create heat for buildings or hot water for hospitals, for example.”
To him, Viesel is just one step toward reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil, an issue that the former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot believes has national-security implications.
“For the last 25 years we’ve done virtually nothing about cleaner energy to enhance the environment and displace our need for foreign oil,” he said. “We’re just digging ourselves into a deeper hole. We’re a greater security risk because of foreign oil than we ever were before.”