As a Systems Intern at CEI this summer, I will work with Matt Poss, Sam Kenworthy and other members of the facilities team for the next two months. Although my main project this summer will be CEI’s biodiesel production, I will also help out with other projects that need an extra pair of hands.
At the moment we produce working fuel but don’t really know what quality it is. It’s easy to make biodiesel that seems to work well but has contaminants in it which relatively quickly destroy engines, are hazardous to the brewer and user, and which can actually be worse for the environment than petrodiesel. So having a clue about the quality of one’s product, as well as its various byproducts, is quite important! There are a lot of tests to which commercial biodiesel producers have to submit their product, but they generally require extremely costly equipment or highly trained analytical chemists, and- at least at the moment- cannot be carried out here on Eleuthera. Over the next few weeks I will therefore research different tests we can reasonably do for every batch of diesel we produce and begin to use these tests on our feedstock oil and the diesel we make. This will allow us to ensure that our vehicles run smoothly and give us an idea of how the quality of our biodiesel varies from batch to batch, which in turn will allow us to improve our production process. So far I have worked only briefly with Marco (who runs the biodiesel lab) to do some basic tests on samples of the waste vegetable oil we will convert into fuel, but later this week he will hopefully show me the entire process. I will also look at a possible expansion of our biodiesel production facility in order to see how we could meet more of our fuel demand in the future.
I am originally from Austria but currently attend UNC-Chapel Hill, where I am about to enter my third year as a philosophy major focusing on the intersections of ethics and economics in the context of sustainable development. Communities trying to be (self-) sustainable in terms of food and energy are pretty fascinating to me, so I am excited to be here at CEI and see the subject of my academic studies in action. I am grateful to be given the chance to add a more practical/ technical aspect to my perspective on sustainable development, and looking forward to the coming weeks!