CCCC completes first semester of biofuels program

By Erin Voegele | October 14, 2008
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Web exclusive posted Nov. 10, 2008 at 2:10 p.m. CST

Fifteen students are participating this fall in the first semester of Central Carolina Community College's new biofuels associate degree program. First conceived in September 2007, the program is designed to provide students with the skills needed to work in the biofuels industry. The program currently has nine full-time and six part-time students.

Coursework for the two-year program includes general education such as alternative energy resource management, chemistry, and industrial safety. Students also study specific areas of the biofuels industry. According to Andrew McMahan, a professor who helped develop the program, the coursework currently focuses on biodiesel.

"Right now we mainly focused on biodiesel because we have about eight commercial biodiesel production facilities in North Carolina," McMahan said. However, the state doesn't have any ethanol plants. Since the program focuses on fuel production and quality, it simply doesn't make sense to prepare students for jobs that don't currently exist. "That's not to say that in the future we are not going to shift as the industry grows," McMahan said.

According to McMahan, local biodiesel producers have been very supportive of the program. "Almost every commercial producer is represented on our advisory board," he said. In addition, two students are currently working at local biodiesel refineries.

An 18,000 square-foot Sustainable Technologies Classroom and Lab Building is under construction. It is expected to be completed by the end of the 2009 fall semester. A $195,000 grant from the North Carolina Biofuels Center, which was matched with an additional $195,000 in funding from the college, is being used to purchase equipment for the new building. McMahan said due to lab space the enrollment will be capped at 18 students. He expects next fall's enrollment numbers to be close to that number.
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