Governor Beverly Perdue and Funded Grant Representatives

NC Biofuels

Research is under way to assess the feasibility of an integrated, sustainable and multi-faceted pilot-scale biodiesel production system for use by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities (CMU) and the greater Charlotte region. The system plan evolved from collaboration with the Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG) through its Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition (CCFC) program, UNC Charlotte, Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), Appalachian State University (ASU), and Catawba County Utilities and Engineering Department (CCUED).  The project goal is to integrate several existing elements of CMU facilities and services with plans for some new biodiesel production capability to create more sustainable utility operations.  Some key project objectives are (i) to grow rapeseed crops and produce biodiesel from it; (ii) evaluate the biodiesel performance and emissions in CMU equipment; and (iii) take steps toward assessing a pilot-scale brown grease-to-biodiesel unit design that can accept problematic fats, oil and grease collected from CMU sewer lines. We will use proven technology, so that the overall system can be judged and serve as a regional demonstration for other utilities.

Several other objectives that make the plan more sophisticated and cost effective are the use of reclaimed water for crop irrigation; the testing of ground gypsum as a soil amendment to promote carbon sequestration; and the use of CCOG networking capabilities to reach a wide range of stakeholders both for their expertise and for wide project dissemination. The direct short-term benefits will be to (a) convert CMU agricultural land to productive acreage; (b) make beneficial use of reclaimed water; and (c) generate a valuable fuel product. The project addresses multiple problems common to many utility departments in their efforts to achieve greater sustainability and increased use of alternative fuels. It employs site-specific planning and multiple synergistic systems to reduce costs, pollutant emissions, and waste. As such, it will serve as a potent model for other utilities in the state and region. Through expansion and replication, it will contribute to our long term state goal that by 2017, 10% of liquid fuels sold in North Carolina will come from local biofuel feedstock.

Green Business

North Carolina aims to acquire 10% of its liquid fuels from local biofuel feedstock by 2017. While much of the state’s current biodiesel feedstock is from oil crops and spent cooking oils, another potential feedstock is “brown grease”. Brown grease is waste oil from food preparation found in the wastewater stream. It can enter the municipal sewer system and cause significant blockage. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, brown grease contributes to over 55% of sanitary sewer overflows. Our research team investigates the feasibility of a Greater Charlotte Region Biofuel Facility (GCRBF), beginning with a sustainable, multi-faceted biodiesel demonstration system that will turn crops and waste brown grease into a useful fuel.

This project integrates several existing Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities (CMU) facilities and services with new biodiesel capability. By leveraging several favorable site-specific factors, we aim to generate data to support the business case for CMU to produce biodiesel and promote alternative energy production among other municipalities. The specific research objectives include:  

(i) Master Planning that includes a Life Cycle Assessment and Economic Analysis 

(ii) An Oil Seed Crop Irrigated with CMU Reclaimed Water

(iii) Biodiesel Produced from Crops and Brown Grease

(iv) Work Force Development Educational Materials

(v) Project Dissemination Training

Project Goals and Objectives

Principal Investigators