UTech to refine castor fuel formula for PCJ
In less than two weeks, state-run Petroleum Co-operation of Jamaica (PCJ) and the University of Technology Jamaica (UTech) will sign an agreement for further research on castor oil as an alternative source of energy.
It follows advancement in the development of a trial blend for vehicular fuel, called B5, that UTech is now expected to further refine.
"Research in the alternative-energy industry has always been ongoing at the PCJ, but recently, we have had successful vehicular trials using biodiesel made from castor oil," said PCJ Corporate Affairs and Communication Manager Camille Taylor.
"We have already developed the formula. What we are expecting is that UTech, being a learning and research institution, will conduct further tests and further refine the formula," she said.
UTech will also be expected to provide technical support services under the agreement.
PCJ project engineer for biofuels Niconor Reece said, to date, approximately $17.5 million has been invested in small-scale biodiesel research in Jamaica, but the cost of the medium-scale project initiative with UTech has not yet been finalised.
The PCJ plans to source its castor oil for the project locally, through the recently formed Jamaica Castor Industry Association (JCIA).
OPEN TO SUPPORTING COMPANIES
Reece said the PCJ would approach the introduction of biodiesel blended fuel through public-private partnership (PPP) and that the outcome of the work by UTech would inform the structure of the PPP. He said PCJ is also open to supporting companies with vehicle fleets to adopt biodiesel-blended fuel.
Entities that already utilise biodiesel-blended fuels include the University of the West Indies and National Bakery, he said.
At the Alternative Energy Expo, held June 16-17 in New Kingston, the group head of PCJ, Winston Watson, said the B5 blend should allow Jamaica to cut about 97,000 barrels of oil from its tally of imports, saving "approximately $633 million annually on our energy bills while also giving our local agricultural sector a boost".
However, in a release issued last week, PCJ adjusted the figure for estimated savings to $540 million.
The biofuels project include several agencies, among them PCJ, Bodles Agricultural Research Station, and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute.
Fuel standards are established by the Bureau of Standard Jamaica. Currently, there is a local biodiesel standard that came into effect in 2013 under the Petroleum Quality Control Act. This law facilitates up to 5 per cent blending of biodiesel with petroleum diesel.
- Sashana Small,
Gleaner Business Intern