Biodiesel Workshop draws 26 to BECON

By | May 01, 2004
Iowa State University's (ISU) first week-long biodiesel workshop at the Biomass Energy Conversion Facility (BECON) in Nevada, Iowa, was held March 22-26. As Biodiesel Magazine previously reported, the workshop includes training on production technology, analytical methods and business management, condensing what was previously offered in three separate workshops into a five-day format. It also included detailed tours of BECON's combined crusher and biodiesel pilot plant.

"It is a great idea for anyone who wants to know it all but can't afford the luxuries of three trips to the Midwest and weeks away from work," said workshop participant Carolyn Oglesby, director of the Fuels Diversification Program in the Department of Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University.

The combined workshop attracted 26 attendees from the United States, Portugal, Singapore and Puerto Rico. Participants included engineers, chemists, retailers, international relief workers, academics, university students and entrepreneurs.

"New ideas abounded after a day or two in an atmosphere of curiosity and professional congeniality, and despite the long hours, most attendees chose to chill together after class, sharing information pubside and at dinner," Oglesby said. "By the time it was all over, many of us felt as much like friends as colleagues and business connections."

Developed by a team of five extraordinary professionals and funded by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Iowa Energy Center, the workshop takes on everything needed to responsibly produce, promote and market biodiesel. Workshop leaders include ISU mechanical engineering professor Jon Van Gerpen, retired professor-turned-biodiesel entrepreneur L. Davis Clements, U.S. Department of Agriculture chemist Gerhard Knothe, chemical engineer and business manager Rudy Pruszko, and ISU chemical engineering professor and catalysis expert Brent Shanks.

"Our group was especially fortunate to have K. Shaine Tyson of NREL present, not only to evaluate the workshop but also to contribute knowledge gained by years of experience supporting and reviewing various biodiesel technologies and research efforts for the U.S. Department of Energy," Oglesby told Biodiesel Magazine. "Classroom presentations were stippled with opportunities to network during hands-on lab work and during the meals."

Because it's deceptively easy chemistry, biodiesel production looks simple on the surface, but there are pitfalls, permits, regulations, registrations, issues with soaps, standards, safety, storage, stability, water and waste to consider. The workshop tackled all those issues.
"There is so much that many would-be producers would not know until they've been through this workshop," Oglesby said. "The materials that one takes away are worth the registration price alone and a comfort to have on the shelf since retaining all the information during this intense week is simply not possible."

The next ISU Biodiesel Workshop is scheduled for October. More information is available online at
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