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Archive for the ‘Biodiesel’ Category

CSIRO releases report into biodiesel GHG emissions

Posted by Car Geek on November 28, 2007

The CSIRO yesterday released a report which investigates the impact of biodiesel use on greenhouse gas emissions, when compared to standard diesel fuel. At 126 pages, the report is slightly too large to have a quick read through during a break, so here’s the executive summary of the executive summary:

  • Canola-based biodiesel emits 3.5 times more GHG emissions (measured in grams of CO2-equivalent) during its production than diesel fuel, known as the “upstream” section of the life cycle. However, total life cycle emissions are reduced by 49% when using canola-based B100, as the crops absorb carbon dioxide.
  • Tallow, or animal fat, has upstream emissions 50% higher than those of diesel, but life cycle emissions 76% lower than diesel.
  • The emissions from plantation-based palm oil depend on the age of the plantations being used. If the plantation is established before 1990, the emissions “associated with land clearing are not counted…under present methods of carbon accounting”, so upstream emissions are only 25% higher than those from diesel and life cycle emissions are 80% lower. Newer palm oil plantations, however, have upstream emissions 50 to 136 times higher than diesel, and life cycle emissions 8 to 21 times higher.
  • Used cooking oil, being a waste product, has almost no upstream emissions, resulting in a life cycle emissions saving of 87% when compared to diesel.
  • 2 per cent blends (B2) lower emissions by 1.7% at most, with standard Australian B2 fuels reducing emissions by 0.92% to 1.47%, depending on the source of biodiesel.

Also of note is that the extra-low-sulfur diesel (XLSD) used as the baseline in these calculations actually produces slightly more carbon dioxide than standard low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), due to the additional processing required. The lower sulfur content generates fewer smog-forming and hazardous pollutants; it is worth noting that the use of biodiesel also significantly reduces sulfur-based pollutants, though.

Luke at Envirofuel makes the point that the report is commissioned by Caltex, who supply biodiesel in 2, 5 and 20 per cent blends. According to Caltex CEO Des King, the company does not use palm oil “unless it can be shown to be sustainable to the satisfaction of key stakeholders in the countries it is produced”.

The full report can be viewed at the CSIRO website.

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Posted in Biodiesel | 2 Comments »

Joint venture for coal-sequestering algae announced

Posted by Car Geek on November 27, 2007

Algae being grown from CO2. Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. Two Australian firms, Linc Energy and BioCleanCoal, have partnered together in a joint venture to sequester carbon dioxide emissions from Australian coal-fired power stations to use as fuel or fertiliser, even re-burning it to produce additional energy.

The companies will spend $1 million to build a prototype reactor in Chinchilla, which will use the carbon dioxide emissions from the power plant to grow algae, which can then be dried and turned into biodiesel at low energy costs.

Hamish Macdonald, a company director of BioCleanCoal, says that the process can easily remove 90 per cent of carbon dioxide from the plant’s emissions, with 100 per cent removal possible but unlikely due to the increased costs.

“We’re very confident we’re going to be able to make a significant impact on emissions,” added Malcolm Lamont, a chief scientist at BioCleanCoal.

If the trial is successful, the joint venture will consider building a full-scale bioreactor, at an estimated cost of $30 million to $40 million.

In a similar project, a Laverton-based company is also working to refine a local species of algae to convert into biodiesel. BioMax plans to produce 100 million litres of biodiesel annually, using carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from the La Trobe coal-fired power station.

Mile Soda, managing director for BioMax, says that the process could produce 50 to 100 times as much biodiesel per hectare as crop-based biodiesel, such as canola. The first batches of algae-derived biodiesel could be produced within two years.

(Sources: Greentech Media, Star News Group)

Posted in Biodiesel, Carbon sequestration | 3 Comments »

Coalition announces $24 million in biofuels support

Posted by Car Geek on November 13, 2007

Deputy PM Mark Vaile. Image from Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile today announced that a re-elected coalition government would put forward $24 million in funding towards expanding the use of biofuels, at the coalition’s official campaign launch in Brisbane.

The new package would involve $8 million in assistance for up to 400 additional petrol stations around Australia to help refit them for use with E10 petrol, to increase the total number of petrol stations selling the fuel to approximately 1200. $6 million would also be earmarked for a trial of B20 biodiesel blended diesel fuel to determine if it meets heavy vehicle standards, and $10 million would be spent on the promotion and further research into biofuels, including second-generation production methods such as cellulosic ethanol and algae-derived biodiesel.

The Australian federal government currently has a target of 350 ML of biofuels by 2010, a target current production is expected to exceed in the next year or two. Vaile’s rural-focused Nationals party in particular has been a strong supporter of biofuels in Australia, as they have been largely beneficial to farmers.

(Source: The Age)

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

SsangYong advises against biodiesel use

Posted by Car Geek on October 25, 2007

Ssangyong Kyron diesel SUV/4WD. Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. In the wake of releasing a new diesel four-wheel drive, Korean car manufacturer SsangYong has advised that using biodiesel in its vehicles may void parts of its warranty.

According to the car maker, users may be liable for damages caused by substandard fuel such as poor quality biodiesel, sales of which “remain unchecked” at petrol stations. Poor quality fuel has the potential to damage fuel systems including injectors, fuel pumps and rails. SsangYong now warns car owners against the use of biodiesel with a sticker on the fuel flap.

“If it’s proven with our test of the fuel that it’s faulty then whatever repair needs to be done is not warrantable,” says SsangYong Australia managing director Keith Timmins.  “However, the rest of the vehicle’s warranty remains intact.”

“There hasn’t been a lot of them full stop but there’s been enough to worry about and the problem is broader than just ourselves. I know of a $23,000 repair job on a Range Rover because of dirty bio-diesel.”

The issue highlights an increasing need for stricter enforcement of biofuel standards in Australia, particularly biodiesel which has been largely neglected by petrol companies and legislators until recently. Most biodiesel blends sold in Australia contain a maximum of 20% biodiesel to a majority of mineral diesel fuel, however even at these low concentrations, poorly filtered biodiesel can cause problems. New biodiesel users should also check their filters regularly, since biodiesel can act to loosen solid matter that has been deposited by mineral diesel fuel in the fuel tank, causing it to clog the fuel lines and restrict flow.


Posted in Biodiesel | 4 Comments »

This year’s Solar Challenge isn’t just about solar power

Posted by Car Geek on October 21, 2007

Waikato University's UltraCommuter experimental vehicle. Image courtesy WSC.

For the past twenty years, the World Solar Challenge has demonstrated the ability to run a car purely from the power of the sun. With climate change and resource scarcity registering as a significant public issue, however, the organisers last year added a new class to the competition that promotes environmentally friendly vehicles that don’t necessarily need to run on solar power. Here’s some of the entrants for this year:

  • Team Ethanol, from Queensland, is using a production Saab BioPower vehicle to aim for its second consecutive Greenfleet Technology Class title. The team will be running on E85 fuel produced in Sarina, in Queensland’s north.
  • The University of Adelaide has entered using its BioBike, a modified motorcycle that runs on pure biodiesel.
  • Bios Fuel Corp will be running a diesel-powered vehicle on a controversial 60/40 combination of waste oil and water. The New Zealand-based team says that their H2W+ fuel is more advanced than ethanol or biodiesel.
  • The Japanese H2Solar vehicle won’t be competing for a title, but the JonaSun team is using the race to demonstrate their technology. The experimental vehicle runs on both solar power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

The race is currently underway, with the first teams expected to make it to Adelaide by the weekend.

Posted in alternative fuels, Biodiesel, Ethanol, Hydrogen, Solar | Leave a Comment »

Biodiesel plant coming to Goulburn

Posted by Car Geek on October 9, 2007

Goulburn, located in rural NSW, is likely to be the location for a $5 million biodiesel facility being built by the City Industrial Group. Exact details of the plant are not yet available, but it will use genetically modified crops grown in both Australia and Indonesia.

Paul Menere, the developer for the City Industrial Group project, lists “environmental responsibility” as his main reason for building this and three other biodiesel plants around Australia.

“I’ve been involved in the diesel industry for 30 to 40 years and I know the huge amount of damage fumes can do to humans,” Mr Menere said.

(Source: Goulburn Post via North Queensland Register)

Posted in Biodiesel | Leave a Comment »

Researchers say diesel exhaust kills throat cells

Posted by Car Geek on September 13, 2007

A sign highlighting the dangers of pollution. Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. Researchers at Deakin University in Victoria have shown that emissions from engines burning diesel fuel are far more harmful to airway cells than those from biodiesel. Associate Professor Leigh Ackland, who led the research, said that the escalating need for fuel use may pose a major health hazard.

“The fumes from burning fuels, including diesel, contributes to pollution and can cause heart disease, bronchitis and asthma. Efforts are underway to replace petrol and diesel with cleaner biofuels, such as biodiesel, but there is considerable resistance to this,” Professor Ackland said.

“This study provides clear evidence that diesel exhaust is more harmful to our health than biodiesel exhaust.”

 The study, published in the latest edition of the Immunology and Cell Biology journal, determined that the particulate emissions in diesel, which are higher and more dangerous than petrol or biodiesel, stimulated a “death pathway” response that caused human airway cells to “fuse together and die”. Particulate emissions from biodiesel, by comparison, caused hardly any cell death. Professor Ackland said that this is a clear sign for a need to move towards replacing petroleum-based fuels with biofuels.

“It is clear that breathing in diesel fumes is going to have a far more detrimental effect on our health than biodiesel. Given the level of cell death we have found, diesel exhaust could be the cause of respiratory disorders such as asthma and could even be implicated in cancer,” she said.

(Source: Deakin University via ScienceDaily)

Posted in Biodiesel, Diesel | Leave a Comment »

Biofuel industry to double in 2008

Posted by Car Geek on September 6, 2007

B20 pump, photo by Nathan Cahill.The future of the Australian biofuel industry is looking brighter, with the total production level expected to double to 600 megalitres in 2008, well in excess of the Federal government’s 2010 target of 350 ML.

APAC Biofuels, an industry consultant, released the predictions this week to the Advanced Global Biofuel Summit in Bangkok, also states that production in Australia could exceed 1000 ML by 2010. 

Other key points of the report:

  • Producers may have trouble competing “in the lower value energy market with higher value food commodities”
  • Drought, consumer acceptance and quality are limiting a higher production of biofuels
  • Tallow and waste oil are likely to play a much larger role in Australian biodiesel
  • Falling feedstock prices are the main driver for increased production of both ethanol and biodiesel.

(Sources: ABC News, The Australian)

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

WA biodiesel dealt a blow

Posted by Car Geek on August 25, 2007

B20 pump in WA, image from licenced under CC 2.0. Western Australian biodiesel producer Australian Renewable Fuels Ltd is suffering after a breakdown in negotiations with “a major multinational oil company” to supply biodiesel blends in its service stations around the state, citing “complexities with the logistics of blending biodiesel with bulk mineral diesel at the oil company’s WA terminal”. ARF chief John Lillywhite said that although there is demand for biodiesel in Australia’s largest state, the fuel industry and federal government were not interested in assisting the industry.

“With one exception, you’ve got a hostile major fuel industry with an indifferent federal government,” he said. “So far, the commitment to Australian biodiesel policy and strategy has been extremely poor.”

ARF’s major current contracts include a 10 million litre annual supply to Caltex in WA and South Australia, and 1.5 million litres annually to Wesfarmers Premier Coal, as well as 500,000 litres to an as-yet-unnamed WA buyer.

(Source: WA Business News)

Posted in Biodiesel | Leave a Comment »

Australia needs to improve its diesel fleet: expert

Posted by Car Geek on August 12, 2007

An old diesel pump, from Licenced under CC 2.0. With sales of passenger diesel vehicles increasing rapidly, some are raising concerns about the potential health hazards that diesel emissions can pose. Although Europe and the United States both have quite strict diesel particulate regulations, Australia has not yet caught up in both technology and regulations.

Associate Professor Vishy Karri, from the School of Engineering at University of Tasmania, says that Australia is in danger of falling behind global trends in reducing diesel emissions. “I would love to see Australia put strict regulations in place. In my opinion we are lagging behind and should be acting on these things sooner rather than later,” he said in an interview with the Mercury.

Although sulphur content in diesel fuel (the primary cause of particulate and smog emissions) has been greatly reduced from 500 parts per million to only 50 ppm in the past year, with a further reduction to the upcoming European standard of 10 ppm planned for 2009, the primary source of potentially dangerous emissions is not cleaner new passenger vehicles, but an ageing road transport fleet that is responsible for over 70% of diesel fuel consumption in Australia. A recent report by the National Environment Protection Council has stated that the individual states need to assist in improving the emissions of the diesel truck fleet through the use of particulate filters and oxidisation catalysts.

Alternatively, Dr Karri has supported the use of biodiesel to reduce emissions in any diesel vehicle. Biodiesel decreases almost all types of emissions, with the exception of NOx, and is produced from renewable sources in Australia such as canola. According to Dr Karri, “there are some staggering figures that show hydrocarbons and greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced, even with 2 per cent biodiesel mixture into diesel.” Despite a lack of warranty support from manufacturers, most diesel vehicles need no modification to run even pure biodiesel.

(Source: Mercury)

Posted in Biodiesel, Diesel, Legislation | 3 Comments »