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Fleet division to turn waste oil into heat

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By Bennett Horne

Pete Mondragon is fine with warm weather. It’s just that he can’t wait for winter.

That’s when Mondragon, the fleet manager for Los Alamos County’s Department of Public Works, gets to fire up the county’s new heater.

But it’s not just any heater. It’s an environmentally friendly heater that is fueled by waste oil collected from routine oil changes performed by Mondragon’s staff.

“We’re excited to have this,” he said. “I can’t wait for it to get cold so we can try it out.”

The heater, which was installed May 31 by Richard Branch from the Facilities Division, is expected to reduce the cost of heating the fleet shop during the winter and will also lower the cost the department pays to have the waste oil taken off the Hill.

“What this will do is divert waste oil that we have to haul away and use it for heating the building, especially in the winter time when we roll up the doors a lot to bring vehicles in and out,” said Philo Shelton, the county’s director of public works. “When it’s cold all that heat from the building just gets siphoned out, especially on windy days.”

The county, which has been paying to have a company remove the waste oil, may still be out some of that expense since the heater won’t be used during warmer months. The heater does have a storage tank built in, so the fleet workers can store some of the oil below the heater.

“It has a storage tank with it, but I’d say once it completely fills we’ll have to use our other method to haul away oil during the summer,” Shelton said. “I’m sure we’ll be hauling some away in the summer. I’m pretty sure of that.”

Shelton, who is familiar with this type of heater, said one of the advantages is that it “helps reheat the building quickly” after the shop’s doors have been opened and closed.

“I’ve had these at other shops of mine and other facilities and the heat is very good,” he said. “There’s a lot of BTUs in oil, so there’s a lot of energy to realize and this type heater is quick to reheat the building. We look at that as kind of a win-win. Right now we’re heated by natural gas and so we’re having to use those resources when we have this waste oil that we can use instead.”

The heater was paid for through a grant awarded to the Environmental Services Division from the State of New Mexico Environment Department’s Recycling and Illegal Dumping (RAID) Fund.