Island Biodiesel was founded in September 2012, when an entrepreneurial opportunity arose during discussions between 3 classmates from Brown University. The market for biodiesel in the Cayman Islands was significant due to soaring energy prices and the predominant use of high-sulfur diesel. We sought to fill that gap with the social mission of using only recyclable feedstock. This meant using recycled feedstock for biodiesel such as waste vegetable oil (WVO) from restaurants, instead of palm or corn oil that would otherwise be used for food purposes. The main target demographic were boat owners, marine-based companies (water-sports, boat transports, etc.) and the power grid, which ran on diesel generators.
Han Yang’s main role was design and branding for Island Biodiesel. Island Biodiesel was branded as a modern, professional and responsible company. As a young company, it was important to give our customers the sense of ease and reliability in adopting our new source of alternative fuel, which some customers have not encountered before. The logo consists of a minimalistic palm tree wrapped around a glowing oil barrel, floating in clear blue waters. It alludes to clean energy keeping Cayman Islands afloat (where the palm tree is a recognisable symbol). A consistent and coherent use of the logo and company colours throughout all aspects of our company highlights our attention to detail – from company outfits, vehicles, marketing materials and the website.
Another area of significant responsibility was design research and prototyping of various stages of the collection, production and distribution process. Collection of WVO started with in-depth research of the characteristics of the restaurants, their preferred method of collection of WVO from the restaurants and encouraging a culture of recycling. Cayman Islands did not have a strong culture of recycling and restaurants which previously dumped their oil had little to no incentive to recycle the WVO due to the hassles involved – this slowly but successfully altered with relationship building and a low-cost compensation program.
The other logistical challenge was optimizing the layout of the production space, minimizing the space between large quantities of feedstock & chemicals to the biodiesel processor and the biodiesel storage tanks – resulting in quicker production times and lower risk of leakages. Google SketchUp allowed us to test numerous configurations (including pump and pipe layouts) and quickly view it in a 3D space without the time-consuming task of physically moving the various units around. With the production layout finalized, we certified the quality of our biodiesel, sending samples for testing with the US-based ASTM for international certification. We used the biodiesel (from pure biodiesel B100 to various blends of petroleum diesel and biodiesel) in diesel motors, from old and new pick-up trucks to diesel generators and boat motors to check for compatibility issues.
Distribution was a unique challenge as we were a mobile distributor of fuel to mainly marine-based customers. Instead of a permanent docking space to refuel, we would refuel the customer at their respective boat dock, a big plus for convenience. This meant researching various details such as the weight-bearing load of docks to fire/chemical/health safety codes to the minute details such as hose length and diameter of the hose to pump efficiently over a certain distance. We fabricated custom parts to fit on the fuel trailer as such services were difficult to find in the Cayman Islands.
We are currently collecting over 85% of the island’s WVO and serving marine-based customers a cleaner and cheaper (compared to petroleum diesel pump prices) source of energy. The drastically lower carbon and sulfur emissions helps protect the fragile marine environments which many residents rely on for marine tourism, also resulting in a more pleasant boating experience as the emissions from biodiesel are said to be reminiscent of french fries.