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Like many schools in the Northeast, Keene State College in New Hampshire was facing a heating problem that wasn’t going to go away—especially in a place with average high temperatures that don’t crack 60 degrees six months of the year. 

More than 80 percent of Keene State’s campus buildings are heated by a central steam plant powered by three utility-grade oil-fired boilers. Using conventional heating oil in that system was literally producing tons of harmful greenhouse gas emissions and contributing negatively to local air quality, and it put up a substantial roadblock in the school’s effort to reach net carbon neutrality. Making the switch to natural gas would cut down on those harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but installing new gas-fired boilers is a huge expense—and natural gas is not a renewable energy source. 

Keene State found a solution that not only reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 85 percent, but also did it using the equipment it already had in place. The school replaced the 850,000 gallons of conventional heating oil it was using with recycled waste cooking oil from Mass.-based alternative fuel provider, Lifecycle Renewables. Truburn, Lifecycle Renewables’ refined waste cooking oil fuel, is a direct plug-and-play replacement for heating oil, and burns in industrial boilers without requiring any substantial modifications.

Cleaner-burning, sustainable fuel with no price penalty is a powerful tool for schools to reach their sustainability goals—and an effective part of the story they can tell.

•No conversion costs for schools with oil-ready boilers
Industrial boilers using natural gas can cost upwards of $100,000 to install, and that’s assuming a campus has ready access to gas. Waste vegetable oil is a direct replacement that can be used in virtually any oil-fired boiler.  

•Dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions
Waste cooking oil is an exceptionally efficient fuel source when used in oil-fired boilers. Truburn reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent when compared to traditional heading oil—and because of its ultra-low carbon intensity, it is considered carbon-neutral in carbon accounting protocols. 

•A virtually unlimited source of renewable energy
More than 4 billion pounds of used cooking oil are produced every year. Instead of creating greasy clogs in municipal waste water systems, restaurants contract with providers like Lifecycle Renewables and get paid to have it recycled. Lifecycle Renewables supplies school campuses, steam utilities and other commercial clients from Maine’s Canadian border down the East Coast to Philadelphia. 

•Locally sourced and reliably delivered
Instead of transporting conventional heating oil from suppliers in different states—or different countries—Lifecycle Renewables collects, treats and delivers locally-sourced fuel to customers in the same geographic area, and handles many large customers who use boiler systems that can burn more than 20,000 gallons per hour.

•Unit costs similar to conventional heating oil
The price of Truburn runs roughly in tandem with that of conventional heating oil and has similar energy density. Decision-makers committed to renewable energy for universities don’t have to compromise sustainability for affordability. 

Given those factors, it’s no surprise that Keene State isn’t the only school to make the switch. Harvard University is using Truburn as part of its overall strategy to become fossil-fuel neutral by 2026. And the cleaner-burning fuel has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent even as Harvard’s physical footprint in Cambridge has increased by more than 3 million square feet. Bates College switched to Truburn in 2021 at its Lewiston, Maine campus. The result? The school’s greenhouse gas footprint is just 15 percent of what it was with natural gas and traditional heating oil.

Aging physical plants, volatile winter weather, increasing fuel costs and tight budgets mean colleges and universities can’t afford to put off important decisions about sustainability. Lifecycle Renewables can help you navigate the renewable energy landscape. Find the answers to your questions here.