|The mothballed biodiesel facility near Darwin|
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Does Biodiesel Deserve a Better Deal??
Biodiesel and ethanol both fall under the category of “biofuels,” which describes any fuel synthesized from plant or animal matter. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Biodiesel offers a significantly improved environmental impact compared to both ethanol and standard petroleum-derived diesel. It can be used in standard diesel engines with little or no negative impact on engine health. Just add it to the tank of your Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen or Mercedes diesel vehicle – or pretty well any other diesel including light trucks. In tropical warm weather it even starts well in the morning.
Meanwhile, ethanol deserves scrutiny for its relatively high emissions, and the way it can damage engines that aren’t specifically designed to burn the fuel.
In recent years, ethanol has been the target of a backlash from environmentalists and critics of government waste, who argue that the limited benefits of the fuel don’t justify the federal support it received over the last few decades. In the USA, the Renewable Fuels Standard, which sets a production mandate for both ethanol and biodiesel, has recently been a target of reformers, who would like to see the standard cut to reflect the low demand and perceived declining promise of ethanol. If that happens, biodiesel production could get caught up in the reforms, with the EPA opting not to raise production targets for biodiesel in 2014.
Biodiesel can be produced from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled food by-products like restaurant grease, or from algae, which can be grown using waste materials like sewage. It can be sold in a variety of blends with petroleum diesel or as a pure 100-percent blend known in some areas as B100.
Locally in the NT there is one small scale production facility near Berrimah, using waste vegetable oils and greases………plus one large mothballed facility at East Arm where current production is zero, but capacity is 130 million litres per year.
The cost of the fuel to consumers varies depending upon blend and location, but may be more expensive than mineral based diesel. That extra cost brings the benefit of about a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2010 study by Argonne National Laboratory in the USA.
Should there now be more emphasis on biodiesel production, with this very high reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, especially as Australian mineral derived diesel seems to be remaining persistently high in price?