SUNY-ESF to turn sculpture into biodiesel fuel

Micah Benson | Art Director

The fairgrounds, which played host to The Great New York State Fair for 12 days, has undergone its yearly transformation.

The butter sculpture will now do the same.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has turned the iconic butter sculpture into biodiesel for the past four years to power its vehicle fleet, according to its website.

The sculpture, housed in the dairy building, is the centerpiece of the 12-day New York State Fair and acts as a tribute to New York state’s dairy farmers, according to the website.

This year’s sculpture was carved out of 800 pounds of butter and incorporated the themes of Greek yogurt and the Olympics, according to an Aug. 22 WSYR-TV article. The sculpture depicted two children and a cow in a toga standing around a yogurt bowl carrying torches and wearing medals.

The butter is converted into biodiesel at a production facility on ESF’s campus. It takes a week to convert the butter sculpture to biodiesel.

First, the butter is clarified in order to remove water and milk proteins and separate out the triglycerides. The triglycerides are then split in a reactor to create biodiesel. About nine pounds of butter are needed to make a gallon of biodiesel, according to the website.

Thirty-seven percent of ESF’s vehicle fleet currently runs on some form of renewable energy, including biodiesel, according to the website.

Jessica Bohn, biodiesel production manager at ESF, could not be reached for comment.

The biodiesel program began in 2006, when used fry oil from Sadler Hall was first converted to biodiesel, Christopher Nomura, a chemistry professor at ESF, said in an email.

In 2008, Nomura said the American Dairy Council approached ESF President Neil Murphy about turning the sculpture into biodiesel.


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