(513n) Biodiesel from Coconut Oil- an Experience in Tonga | AIChE

(513n) Biodiesel from Coconut Oil- an Experience in Tonga


Lewis, R. S. - Presenter, Brigham Young University
Wilding, W. V. - Presenter, Brigham Young University
Frankman, A. - Presenter, Brigham Young University
Jones, J. - Presenter, Brigham Young University

With engineering increasingly becoming an international discipline, engineering programs are enhancing opportunities to prepare students for such a global industry. Being an engineer of tomorrow's world will require students to understand and work with different cultures, peoples, practices, ethics and paradigms. In addition to successful careers, opportunities for engineering graduates to apply their expertise to solve both technical and social problems in the world around them are beneficial.

In order to engage engineering students in global opportunities, a 3-credit hour course was recently developed that involved chemical, mechanical, civil/environmental, and electrical/computer engineering students. The first course was held during the Winter 2007 semester and was followed by a trip to Tonga in May 2007 with 26 students. Students ranged from sophomores to seniors. The trip involved the implementation of a biodiesel production process using coconuts. There is an abundance of coconuts in Tonga, providing great potential to offset the high import costs of diesel. Most of the energy used in Tonga originates from diesel fuel processes.

The biodiesel process involved the entire scope from grinding coconuts, extracting the oil, converting the oil to biodiesel, washing and utilizing the biodiesel, recovering methanol, making soap from the glycerin, and appropriately discharging the waste water. The batch process utilized a 40 gallon reactor. The process was demonstrated to high school students and government officials. During the course, students worked on various aspects of improving the process. An economic analysis and business plan were also completed.

The entire process will be discussed. Included in the discussion are technical aspects and challenges of implementation in Tonga, technical areas that can be improved, safety and environmental aspects, societal aspects, future opportunities, and economic