Cummins helps Indianapolis Zoo turn fry oil into fuel

Staff at the Indianapolis Zoo will be moving around the park on the power of recycled french fry oil, thanks to a new partnership between the zoo and Cummins.

Cummins helped the zoo setup a processing station that takes oil from the fryers at the zoo's cafe, breaks it down into ester and glycerin, then mixes the ester with fuel to create biodiesel.

The project is starting at a very small scale, but zoo officials are hopeful that increasingly more of their vehicles and equipment will be able to run on the in-house biofuel in the future.

"As we replace existing vehicles and systems that currently cannot operate using a biofuel mixture, we will be able to more effectively evaluate and perhaps even use the biofuel we produce,” Norah Fletchall, the zoo's supervising vice president of operations, said. “What’s so great about this initial project is Cummins’ assistance in properly sizing our system so we could produce small batches now with the capacity to grow larger.”

The zoo's first batch took several days to produce, but officials chalked that up to learning the ropes of the new system. Cummins estimated the zoo will eventually have the capacity to generate up to 500 gallons of biofuel each year through the current process.

By facilitating the success of a biodiesel project in a public, family-friendly environment, Cummins hopes to raise awareness about the fuel's merits.

“One of the main reasons we partnered with the Indianapolis Zoo is the broad reach that the zoo has with, one, its conservation message, and two, all of the visitors that can come here on an annual basis,” Cummins representative Joe Sawin said. “So it’s a great opportunity to teach a lot of people about the benefits of biodiesel.”

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