Thursday, February 23, 2017

Federal Work-Study student Phiet Vo Determines a Method for Storing Fuel Effectively and Safely

Sustainable energy is an important industry for many scientists and engineers that are interested in improving the environment. There are countless methods for producing clean renewable energy that are more than capable of meeting power demands. These power sources may also come with the added benefits such as waste reduction. For example, anaerobic digestion is a process that involves converting organic waste into usable biofuel in the absence of oxygen. The fuel being produced in this case would be methane, a natural biofuel with chemical composition CH4. Although producing this energy is a straight forward process, determining an effective method for storing significant amounts of fuel presents various safety hazards.

For this project, two 55-gallon drums were chosen to be used as an organic waste reactor and fuel tank. However, since the drums must be pressurized in order to store significant amounts of methane, it was important that they meet industry safety standards. The plastic drums currently being used for the system did not meet these requirements, so new steel open-head drums have been introduced. One of the main disadvantages of using steel is its susceptibility to corrosion. Since many corrosive toxins are present during methane digestion, one of the main responsibilities of this project included investigating proper solutions to this issue.

Various vendors were contacted in order to get appropriate safety information for the parts. Industry experts were also able to provide important insight on current methods being used to address similar problems. By organizing all this information, it is possible to determine the most effective solution. Future work includes working with the same vendors as well as contacting the drum manufacturer for more specific information.