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Coconut Oil Biodiesel
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Coconut Oil Biodiesel


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  • 1. Coconut oil biodiesel Vanuatu Image by Bruce Scott Maree
  • 2. Overview
      • When and how it began
      • How it works
      • How it evolved or emerged
      • What benefits it provides
      • How it may develop in the future
  • 3. How and when it began
      • coconut oil was first used in the Pacific during WWII when a fuel shortage gripped the Philippines, forcing residents to look for alternatives
      • concept of mixing coconut oil and diesel restarted at least a decade ago as the price of oil began to skyrocket.
      • Vanuatu spends about 20% of its annual budget on imported petroleum
      • Mr Rudolf Diesel invented the combustion engine to run on peanut oil
      • Vanuatu (pop'n about 218,000) spends about 20% of its annual budget on imported petroleum
      • 1 litre of diesel in Port Vila (Vanuatu's capital) costs about $AU1.70, and the avg annual income is only $AU3000
      • coconuts grown all over the Pacific islands.
  • 4. How it works
      • Make copra by removing the shell, breaking up the white flesh and drying. Alternatively the flesh may be sun-dried in the shell.
      • Take the dried white flesh of coconut, which is called copra and feed it into a primary crusher. The now smaller pieces are then fed into a secondary crusher where the oil is expelled through holes in the crusher. A filter takes out solids and the expressed oil is put into a holding tank where sediments settle. After two weeks in the settling tank it can then be used in cars and other vehicles including ships, or to fuel power generators.
      • you need to crush about 9 coconuts to recover 1 litre of oil
      • coconut oil starts to solidify in temperatures less than 24.4 degrees Celsius. Viscosity can be boosted by blending in diesel in colder areas.
      • carefully filtered coconut oil with excess moisture removed works perfectly in many diesel engines.
  • 5. How it works Removing coconut meat from shell  Loading copra into crusher Primary crusher: turns it into smaller pieces Loading into secondary crusher Press filter to remove solids Coconut oil coming out of crusher Settling tanks Rental truck fleet running on coconuts Taste test. "Yep. Tastes like coconut"
  • 6. How it has evolved
      • Car hire company initially used 60:40 coconut oil to diesel but found diesel had too much moisture content. They now use 80:20 mix. 
      • Port Vila's elec co. UNELCO started experimenting with coconut/diesel fuel mix in June 2005 (using 5% coconut oil) in their 4 MW generator. They were at 15% by September 2007 and are hoping to run on B100 (100%) soon.
      • Experiments have found you can use 10-90% blends in most diesel engines, with most tolerance with a 50-50 blend.
      • Currently on Pacific Islands a handful of businesses run all their vehicles on B100 - forklifts, crane trucks, Mazda and Toyota Hilux utes, JAC trucks, boats, ships - as well as in heavy machinery and generators.
      • UNELCO is now buying copra at a fixed price (outside of the world commodity market) to encourage coconut farming on Pacific Islands.
  • 7. What benefits it provides
      • provides better torque but top end speed reduced
      • burns slower than diesel
      • safe on skin, edible
      • fuel smells nice (like coconut) and is (potentially) sustainable, carbon neutral
      • inexpensive, local fuel source (efficiencies)
      • reduces islands dependency on foreign oil, price fluctuations and shortages
      • local job creation - farmers, copra 'miners', oil producers, oil sellers
      • 80c a litre compared to up to $AU 2.17 for diesel
      • revitalise Vanuatu's copra industry
      • reverse trend of people leaving islands to try to find low-paying work in Port Vila and high unemployment rates
  • 8. How it might develop in the future
      • important transport fuel for travelling around and between islands, as well as electricity generation
      • could replace up to 50% of the diesel imported by Vanuatu
      • perhaps export market?
      • potential for coconut oil biofuel production in other tropical areas with capacity to grow coconuts (northern Australia)  
    • Limitations
      • need to ensure biodiesel does not compete with food
      • need to ensure sustainable production of coconuts
      • need to ensure workers are not exploited
      • need to ensure the carbon balance sheet remains in the black
      • coconut oil solidifies around 24.4 degrees Celsius so needs to be mixed with other diesel in cooler areas
  • 9. References and further reading
      • Pacific Power - Landline, 2/8/2009, Kerri Ritchie [ transcript ]
      • Islanders look to coconuts as oil prices rise, 19/1/2005 [ link ]
      • In defence of the humble coconut, 29/1/2008, Sarina Locke [ link ]
      • Coconut oil powering an alternative in the Pacific, 17/9/2007 [ link ]
      • Coconut oil gives Vanuatu more energy, 8/12/2005 [ link ]
      • Coconut oil - Wikipedia, accessed 11/8/2009 [ link ]
      • Josh Tickell's Biofuel presentation, accessed 11/8/2009 on [ link ]
      • A combustable product from coconut oil, Luis Matias (thesis) [ link ]
      • Coconut oil central, biodiesel [ link ]
      • Oil yields and characteristics [ link ]
      • The Coconut Odyssey, free e-book by Mike Foale [ link ]