April 23, 2014  

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Research Vessel Miss Peetsy B Converted to Run on Waste Vegetable Oil

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The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory vessel Miss Peetsy B, recently converted to allow the use of waste vegetable oil as fuel, will make its maiden voyage under the new engine system on Wednesday, July 17 in Ocean Springs, Miss.

A group of Sea Camp students will be taken out for the excursion which will last approximately 45 minutes. During the cruise, a trawl will be pulled to collect specimens for examination and the group will check crab traps. Other activities will include testing the water for salinity and bird watching. The boat is scheduled to leave the dock at 9 a.m.

Under the engine conversion, the waste vegetable oil is stored in a new tank, separate from the diesel fuel, and the engine can run on either fuel. The conversion was done by Randy Holton of Green World Innovations in Folly Beach, S.C.

“The Detroit engine uses diesel to start and then switches to waste vegetable oil once it warms up,” said Holton. “Coming in from a trip, the engine is switched from waste vegetable oil back to diesel so that the common fuel line is cleared of all vegetable oil.”

Besides being less expensive than diesel fuel, the vegetable oil burns cleaner. Reduced emissions and the absence of heavy metals and carcinogens make for a more environmentally friendly fuel. The system components were installed so that they can be shown to passengers during cruises to explain the operation and environmental advantages of WVO fuel.

Holton’s involvement with GCRL came through the Buffett family who came to know him when Jimmy Buffet needed waste vegetable oil for “The Fried Green Tomato,” his converted Ford Sportsmobile camper van, while traveling in South Carolina. A mutual friend introduced Holton as a source of waste vegetable oil. The dining hall at GCRL will be providing waste vegetable oil as fuel for the vessel as well as the kitchen at Lulu’s at Homeport in Gulf Shores, Ala., the popular waterfront restaurant owned by Lucy Buffett.

The Miss Peetsy B is 33-foot fiberglass craft built as a U.S. Navy liberty launch in 1973 by Uniflite. It was donated to the lab in 2011 by Jimmy Buffett and his sisters, Lucy Buffett and Laurie Buffett-McGuane. Miss Peetsy B is named in honor of the Buffetts’ mother “Peets” Buffett, who passed away in 2003. She was a 1940 graduate of the Gulf Park College for Women in Long Beach, Mississippi, which became a second campus for Southern Miss in 1972.

To further support the University, the family created the Mary Loraine Peets Buffett Endowed Scholarship, which accepts contributions from the public. The family hopes this vessel will help educate students about their coastal environment, and ultimately, create a more informed citizenry to protect and maintain our local marine habitat.

The GCRL Marine Education Center offers bayou tours aboard the Miss Peetsy B as a field trip for school and community groups. The program consists of two 90-minute periods of instruction, one on the water and the other in the classroom. The program is tailored to 4th-12th grade students or adult groups.