My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How UWI and YCWJ can Waste Cooking Oil for National Bio-Diesel Production

Friday, June 7, 2013

How UWI and YCWJ can Waste Cooking Oil for National Bio-Diesel Production

“Think. Eat. Save: Reduce Your Footprint”

Theme of World Environment Day celebrated on Thursday June 5th 2013

Thursday June 5th 2013 was celebrated globally as World Environment Day.This was announced by Yendi Phillipps, host of Television Jamaica Smile Jamaica Programme on the very same day. Sheer luck that yet again another media personality says something that blogworthy as was the case with the start of the Hurricane Season declared by Neville Bell in my blog article entitled “Neville Bell Hurricane Barbara the first for Atlantic and Pacific Hurricane Season starting Saturday June 1 2012 - Caribbean theatre for the Class of Hurricanes in Monsters University”.

This day is usually set aside like Labour Day, to do something for the Environment, whether it was simply by avoiding burning fossil fuel by walking, riding a bicycle or engaging in a project that would solve and environmental problem as per the article “What are you doing to help create a better environment?”, published Wednesday, June 05, 2013 by Karena Bennett, The Jamaica Observer.

Saving the Coral Reefs is a global effort as reported in “Reef Worlds to the rescue”, published Wednesday, May 29, 2013, The Jamaica Observer that is one example of a worthwhile project. This is definitely ongoing as Jamaica is still the convener of the International Seabed Authority.

Biodiversity and the ability for various fauna and flora to coexist with human development is key to our long term survival as stated in “Celebrating biodiversity”, published Wednesday, May 22, 2013, The Jamaica Observer.
To this end, Lead Researcher on the Project Dr Michael Coley of the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science and Technology, at the University of the West Indies and a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) YCWJ (Youth Crime Watch Jamaica), have decided to team up to help tackle the problem of the recycling and reuse of Waste Cooking Oil. This has also been mentioned by the host Yendi Phillipps, host of Television Jamaica's Smile Jamaica Programme, making me suspect this idea's got her backing in some way

They’ve done this by helping persons from several so-called Ghetto Communities to collect and convert it into Bio-Diesel as mentioned in the article “From cooking oil to biodiesel,” published Wednesday, June 05, 2013 BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor, The Jamaica Observer.

The idea for the project, which came up during discussions among interested individuals attending UWI’s summer courses on Alternative Energy. This projects’ on the same level as the joint EU (European Union) funded Project undertaken jointly with UTECH (University of Technology) and the Ministry of Science, Technology Energy and Mining to develop Hydrogen Gas as a replacement for LPG Cooking Gas as explained in my blog article entitled “UTECH partners with GOJ and UWI to develope Hydrogen Cooking Gas Cylinders - EU Funded 3 Year Project is Chasing Mavericks to push Jamaica into the Hydrogen-Electron Economy”.

Resource Mobilization co-ordinator for the Faculty of Science and Technology Dr Julie-Ann Grant explained the genesis of the idea, quote: “UWI has, for a number of years, done a course in alternative energy... One of the features of that course was Bio-Diesel Production, and we found that the public was particularly interested. So, because of that interest generated, we submitted it as a project to the Small Grants Programme with YCWJ as lead, and because UWI and YCWJ have had collaboration over the years, we thought it was a really nice fit. We provide technical support and they engage the community”.

The resulting collaboration between UWI and YCWJ garnered a US$50,000 grant from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and is expected to run for 1 year and six months (18 months) albeit this project has a lifetime of benefits. The Communities and School involving members of the so-called Ghetto Communities include:

1.      Arnett Gardens
2.      August Town
3.      McIntyre Villas
4.      Nannyville
5.      Tivoli Gardens
6.      Trench Town

Schools in these communities are also involved; most likely the Source of the Waste Cooking Oil to be recycled in this project as well as to impress upon young minds the importance of Recycling Waste Cooking Oil:

1.      Calabar Primary and junior high schools
2.      Cockburn Gardens High School
3.      Holy Family and St Michael's primary
4.      Maverly High School
5.      Melrose High School
6.      Norman Gardens High School
Waste Cooking Oil is Organic and degrades when thrown away, but it clogs sinks and creates a problem in Soil due to its slow decomposition rates. With no State sanctioned reason to collect Bio-Diesel, other than its use by the NSWMA (National Solid Waste Management Authority) to recycle it to reduce the cost of operating the agency as stated in “Biodiesel provides savings for NSWMA”, Published Friday October 29, 2010, The Jamaica Gleaner,  there’s no large scale GOJ (Government of Jamaica) drive to recycle Waste Cooking Oil.

Lead Researcher on the Project Dr Michael Coley explains it best, quote:  “It is difficult to dispose of used Waste Cooking Oil. There are many restaurants, for example, which generate five gallons of waste oil on a weekly basis. The challenge is, if they put that bottle of waste oil in a garbage truck, once it compresses the bottle will burst and the oil will seep out and eventually affect the brakes of the vehicle; so, even on campus it's a challenge for our garbage trucks: They do not take up waste oil”.

Folks that’s a lot of Waste Cooking Oil! Some stats on the success of the project thus far are in order:

1.      400 gallons of Waste Cooking Oil has been collected
2.      80% conversion rate of Waste Cooking Oil into Bio-Diesel
3.      34 eateries on the university campus as well as in Papine, Liguanea, and parts of Half-Way-Tree, produce on average 1,000 gallons of Waste Cooking Oil monthly

Best of all there are advantages to recycling Waste Cooking Oil for Diesel Vehicles, the main type of Oil Biodiesel replaces:

1.      Burns cleaner without damaging the Cylinders
2.      Reduces the Suphur Dioxide buildup inside the engine as it has a lower sulphur content than the Petrojam refinery
3.      Can be mixed with regular Diesel and used without any Engine Modification as in the case of Auto LPG

Again Dr. Coley, my former Lecturer in Chemistry, explains the process in his own words, quote: “We measure the free fatty acid content, which gives us an idea of the extent to which the oil has been broken down. The more you use cooking oil for frying for example, the darker the colour tends to get, which is an indication that the oil is gradually breaking down. We prefer oil which, when we assess it, has less than five per cent free fatty acids, which means it is not very dark and will not require a large amount of chemicals or time to convert to biodiesel.”

Dr. Coley continues on, quote: “Next, what we do is remove moisture and particulates, essentially strain the oil, and then we carry out the actual chemical conversion. What we get at that stage is crude biodiesel which we clean up, meaning we remove any un-reacted components and then dry to make it suitable for fuel use. So, in essence, at end of process what we have is fuel grade biodiesel”

This is possible because when Waste Cooking Oil is converted to Bio-Diesel, most of the moisture and Burnt Oil that blackened. Thus summarizing what Dr. Coley explained above, the Waste Cooking Oil is purified via a combination of:

1.      Gentle Heating in a Vacuum Chamber to remove water
2.      Straining using a Cloth Sieve to remove large particles in the Waste Cooking Oil
3.      Centrifugation so as to separate layers of dissolved liquids and solids from the Waste Coking Oil into fractions separable via Decanting

In essence, this is basically getting back the Waste Cooking Oil in its original state before it was used for cooking. It would seem best to use Pure Coking Oil Straight from the Bottle, but the need of vehicles such as trucks for Diesel would outstrip its use in the kitchen.

Thereby  making any project to use arable land to grow Bio-Fuel Crops such as Castor Oil as note in “Jamaica looks at Castor Oil as a Biofuel”, Monday, 14 February 2011 09:05 Written by Jamaica Information Service impractical. Ditto too any FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in using land to produce ethanol from Sorghum, as that land’ll be needed for Food Production soon as noted in my blog article entitled “Russians see potential in Ethanol Fuel Plant in Jamaica – From Russia With Love for sorghum”.

Thus post-recovery of Waste Cooking Oil is an ironic twist, as all those High Schools and Fast Food eateries generate enough Waste Cooking Oil to run the fleets of several Fast Food and Schools Buses, thereby making their operations Carbon Neutral. For this reason, the National Continental Bakery has been piloting a project to process Waste Cooking Oil into Bio-Diesel as noted in “Running on Greens”, Published Sunday March 4, 2012 by Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Thus UWI and YCWJ is set on a road of sustainability as not only is there a huge demand for Recycling Waste Cooking Oil, but they may end up teaming up with a Private Sector Company that’s already doing the same thing. Eventually it may catch the eye of the GOJ, who may expand it to a National Program for its fleet of Diesel Vehicles and the General Motoring Public thus making National Bio-Diesel Production from Waste Cooking Oil Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013).

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