Biodiesel training offered in North Carolina

By Erin Voegele
Posted Sept. 1, 2010

Fleet managers in the Charlotte, N.C., region had the opportunity to learn about biodiesel at a four-hour workshop hosted by the Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition on Aug. 27. A similar event, scheduled for Sept. 17, will offer members of the general public a more broad-based overview of the use and production of biodiesel.

According to the CCFC's Assistant Coordinator Emily Parker, approximately 30 people attended the Aug. 27 training session. "A lot of attendees were fleet managers," she said, noting that the workshop was specifically designed for fleet managers and those who work in vehicle maintenance.

The session opened with a basic overview of biodiesel before moving into more specific information on the maintenance needs of engines fueled with biodiesel. A local biodiesel engine expert, Dave Navey, spoke to attendees about the mechanics of running biodiesel in diesel engines, Parker said. "The gist of Dave's presentation was to dispel myths," she continued, and to educate attendees that using biodiesel won't ruin diesel engines. "His point was to say, you're not [going to ruin your engines], you just need to take some precautions, and don't blame the fuel if things go wrong," Parker said.

The workshop also included a panel of four regional fleet managers who have experience using biodiesel. "They shared their experiences with the group," Parker said, which was followed by a question and answer session. "People really piped up and chimed in," Parker continued. "It was good, I think the people who were there really got a lot out of it. They were very plugged into what was being said."

The workshops were made possible through a grant that was awarded to the North Carolina Biodiesel Education and Awareness Network by the United Soybean Board. The NCBEAN is a project that has been formed between the CCFC, which is the U.S. DOE's Clean Cities organization in the Charlotte region, and another Clean Cities counterpart in the Raleigh area. According to Parker, the CCFC is housed under the umbrella of the Centralina Council of Governments (COG), which is a regional organization that encompasses nine North Carolina counties. The COG houses several departments, including a planning and development department, which is the department that includes the CCFC. The grant awarded to NCBEAN allowed for the development of two workshops, one for fleet managers and one for the general public. Each of the two Clean Cities offices that make up NCBEAN are offering the workshops, for a total of 4 events.

The training event planned for Sept. 17 will offer a more broad-based overview of biodiesel. While the agenda is still under development, Parker said her hope is to open the session with some general information on soy-based biodiesel followed by a shorter, more abbreviated presentation that covers vehicle maintenance issues. Parker also anticipates the workshop will include a presentation given by a representative of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina. In addition, the CCFC is involved in a project called the Greater Charlotte Region Biofuel Facility Project, which is investing the feasibility of converting fats, oils and grease found in the local sewer system into biodiesel. "I want to have someone from that project give a presentation," Parker said.

While the second event is aimed at the general public, Parker also notes she is hoping to target students at local community colleges who are studying vehicle maintenance. Invitations to the free event are scheduled to be mailed out this week. Parker also anticipates that advertisements will be run on the local public radio station.
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