Alternative Fuels Australia

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Cars that run on…iron?

Posted by Car Geek on September 22, 2007

Image courtesy of ORNL.As strange as it might sound, running your car on iron filings might be a possibility in the future, if researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States have their way.

WA Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan has visited the Tennessee-based research facility recently to try and find a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Ms MacTiernan is not completely convinced that current alternatives such as ethanol and diesel are truly viable replacements for petrol in Australia, and as such is scouting out potential solutions.

Oak Ridge’s potentially revolutionary fuel, which uses iron powder rather than traditional gas or liquid fuel, utilises nanotechnology to create very fine particles that combust at lower temperatures than larger particles. The nanoparticles can be burned using existing combustion engine technology (much like regular vehicles) at a much lower cost than other alternatives such as fuel cells, but with a higher efficiency than petrol. David Beach, the head of ORNL’s Materials Chemistry Group that has pioneered the research, says that the fuel could drive vehicles three times further than conventional petrol, and can be stored at ambient temperature and pressure safely.

“We have performed experiments with iron nanoparticles about 50 nanometers in diameter,” Beach says. “These nanoparticles are partially oxidized to develop a 2-nanometerthick oxide coating that keeps the particles from spontaneously combusting. With the oxide coating, which we measured using X-ray diffraction, a temperature exceeding 150°C is required to make the particles ignite. We measured the peak combustion temperatures of these particles, the ignition temperature, and the extent of the reaction. Then we determined the products of the reaction.

“In our radiometry experiment we measured the iron nanoparticles’ peak combustion temperature, which is 1100 Kelvin,” Beach continues. “The temperature should be hot enough to achieve high energy efficiency but not so high that exotic materials, such as expensive ceramics, are required to contain the combustion. Cast iron can be used as the combustion chamber for nanostructured metal fuels.”

The powder fuel, which may also potentially be made out of boron, could also be used in gas turbines such as those found on aircraft, providing a potential safe future fuel for aviation as well as land-based vehicles.

Meanwhile, we hope that Ms MacTiernan continues to search for viable alternative fuels such as this and brings some of the best ideas back to Australia.

(Source: ORNL via The Australian)


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WA minister supports E85

Posted by Car Geek on July 31, 2007

Photo by The West AustralianWestern Australia is setting itself up to rival Queensland as Australia’s ethanol state, if recent events are anything to go by. The submission by industry to WA’s biofuels taskforce has recommended the introduction of an E85 fuel standard, which would combine 85 per cent ethanol with 15 per cent unleaded fuel. Currently the ethanol content of fuel is capped at 10 per cent by federal regulation.

WA state minister for agriculture, Kim Chance (pictured), is supportive of the biofuels industry in Western Australia.

“There is a great potential in WA for alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol to provide significant benefits in both environmental and economic terms,” he said.

“I believe one of the most important benefits a biofuels industry in WA will provide is the boost to rural economies and an increase in employment opportunities.”

Mr Chance recently had the opportunity to drive a Saab 9-5 BioPower, currently the only flex-fuel vehicle available in Australia. He is also likely to support a mandate for minimum biofuel content in all WA fuel, likely a 5 per cent ethanol blend.

“That will be the key issue that Government will be considering, I can feel reasonably confident the Government will be supporting the other recommendations, but the issue of target and mandate around 2010 and 2011 will engender some lively discussion,” he said recently.

E5 is suitable for almost all vehicles, while E85 can only be used in vehicles that have properly modified fuel systems.

(Sources: Farm Weekly, ABC online, The West Australian)

Posted in alternative fuel, Biofuels, Ethanol, Legislation | 1 Comment »

Drive releases its “Green Motoring Guide”

Posted by Car Geek on July 29, 2007

Fairfax media’s automotive section, Drive, has released an online once-off publication called the Green Motoring Guide, available as a free download. As you might expect, it’s largely drawing from previously published articles (this is made particularly clear where editing has made some parts nonsensical) and won’t give much new information to anyone who is a regular to this site or has simply done some of their own research, but it’s a concise and reasonably accurate introductory guide to the green automotive options available today (and a short discussion on future options). The guide focuses mostly on getting the most out of your existing vehicle and what to look for in a new “greener” car, from the size to the fuel source.

Overall, it is probably worth a read if you want a brief guide to immediately available options for reducing your fuel consumption and emissions, but do your own research and be aware that all journalism, especially when it comes to forecasting technological trends, has an inherent bias (even us, but we admit it – we’re biased towards clean fuels). There’s more to the alternative fuels story than can be covered in one magazine.

Note: The GMG has an error on page 6 regarding the energy content of ethanol fuel. Pure ethanol contains approximately 65% of the energy of unleaded petrol, or about 21 MJ/L (the exact content varies depending on the production source and process). E10, which is 10 per cent ethanol and 90 per cent unleaded petrol, has a proportionally higher energy content – about 3% less than standard RON 91 unleaded.

Posted in alternative fuel, Ethanol | 3 Comments »

Carbon trading – how it affects the alternative fuels market

Posted by Car Geek on July 25, 2007

Lonsdale St power station in Melbourne, photo by Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Howard announced his plan for a carbon trading market for Australia, to be introduced no later than 2012. The programme aims mainly at Australia’s worst polluters – such as electricity producers and select areas of industry – but also allows for low-emission businesses to benefit by selling their carbon allocation to heavier polluting businesses, ideally encouraging the growth of low-emission industries. But how does this affect the alternative fuels industry in Australia?

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Posted in alternative fuel, Legislation | 2 Comments »

More information on Conservo

Posted by Car Geek on July 9, 2007

Conservo sign, photo by Nathan Cahill

Since the story was first published, we’ve had a lot of interest in Melbourne’s Conservo petrol station. Conservo markets itself as a “green” service station, offering biofuel blends and organic products. For people looking to find it and take a look for themselves, the service station is located in High St, Prahran, near Swinburne University. Read on for more details of what it offers and some photographs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in alternative fuel, Biodiesel, Biofuels, Ethanol, renewable fuel | 8 Comments »

Analysis: Australia’s future fuel

Posted by Car Geek on July 5, 2007

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to take the opportunity to step back from each individual step that we’ve been focusing on here to take a look at the broader perspective.

In 2005, Australia consumed:

    – 18,712 million litres of petrol (15,856 ML of which was used in passenger vehicles)
    – 8690 million litres of diesel fuel (5,636 ML of which was used in rigid or articulated trucks)
    – 1564 million litres of LPG/CNG fuel

Current indicators are that fossil fuel use has increased in the 18 months since this data was recorded; alternative fuel use in transport was not significant enough to appear with these statistics at the time. In terms of fuel production:

    – Non-renewable fuel production has increased 446% in the last 30 years
    – Renewable fuel has increased 28% in the same period

Clearly these are not the markers of a country that has embraced alternative and renewable fuels, as much of the world is doing. This is both a weakness and an opportunity for us: although we have so far given up the chance to be a world leader in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we have been able to observe a very rapidly maturing field of fossil fuel replacements and make a sensible decision about which is best for the Australian environment. If you’re interested in knowing who the primary contenders are, read on.

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Posted in alternative fuel, Biodiesel, Biofuels, Electric vehicles, Ethanol, fossil fuels, Hybrid, Hydrogen, Legislation, Nuclear power, renewable fuel | 5 Comments »

Expert calls for Australian peak oil study

Posted by Car Geek on June 28, 2007

Visiting US peak oil expert Dr Roger Bedzek is calling on the Australian government to immediately study the effects that peak oil would have on Australia. The former White House consultant is in Australia to give a series of lectures on the theory of peak oil, which states that oil production rates will soon reach or has already reached its highest point. He suggested that Iran’s recent controversy regarding its domestic fuel restrictions highlight the effect that a drop in oil production may have.

“The problem is we’re so tightly stretched now there’s no slack in the system, so even minor perturbations in the system, such as reduced output from Iran, affects the entire world.”

To counter this potential problem, Dr Bedzek is calling on Australia to investigate “possible, aggressive actions on both its supply side and on the demand side”, including energy effeciency measures in transport and alternative fuels including biofuels, hybrids and liquid fuel from coal, as soon as possible to mitigate the effects that peak oil might have.

“It’s going to take a long time, in terms of changing development patterns, running rail and light rail systems, mass-transit systems out to the suburbs and that,” he said.

“If you don’t try to take these kind of mitigation options starting immediately, the ultimate cost to Australia will be many billions more than that [the investment in making the changes].”

(Sources: ABC News, NineMSN)

Posted in alternative fuel, Biofuels, fossil fuels, Hybrid, Peak oil | Leave a Comment »

Green service station opens in Victoria

Posted by Car Geek on June 27, 2007

Conservo biofuel station, image from ABC's Lateline Business

Following on from our last post on algae biodiesel trials in Victoria, a separate company has opened up the state’s first “green” service station, selling only biofuel-blended fuel. Conservo, located in Prahran in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, sells ethanol-blended petrol, such as E10, as well as biodiesel made from canola and tallow. The business also sells a variety of other eco-friendly products in-store, ranging from organic coffee to solar powered laptop bags. Conservo hopes to be using Energetix’s algae biodiesel when it’s available in two years.

Source and image credit: ABC News

Posted in alternative fuel, Biodiesel, Biofuels, Ethanol | Leave a Comment »

Algae biodiesel trials underway in Australia

Posted by Car Geek on June 26, 2007

Victoria’s Hazelwood coal power station, not exactly known for its clean environmental record, is the site of a trial for a new form of biodiesel. Biofuel company Energetix is testing some US-based technology there that allows them to produce biodiesel from algae, rather than the traditional canola or soybean crops. Algae biodiesel has a far higher yield per hectare than traditional crops, with much higher energy returns, but is still in the experimental stages. The algae feeds on carbon dioxide from the power plant. Energetix’s managing director, Mile Soda, says the initial results have been encouraging.

“What we’ve been able to successfully do is take the liquid, or the oil, and have our partners in the United States turn that oil into biodiesel,” he said.

Biodiesel from conventional sources is already available in limited areas in Australia, but Energetix hopes to see algal biodiesel in production within two years.

Source: ABC News

Posted in alternative fuel, Biodiesel, Biofuels | 1 Comment »