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This article appeared in the Biofuels Digest – USA. Photo courtesy of the ABC.
In the last few days, a Queensland oil refinery said it is making biofuel from old tyres and hopes to commercialise it soon to help take care of a huge tyre waste issue in Australia as well as help the country’s fuel security. One tyre equals two litres of fuel and Southern Oil Refineries said it has conducted large-scale pilot tests showing it works. They are moving into demo stage this year and plan on producing 10 to 20 million litres next year.
Southern Oil Refineries general manager Ben Tabulo told ABC News, “[We’ve proven] renewable diesel can work in Australia’s engines and does have the same efficiency on the road. The renewable diesel … has been refined from post-consumer waste, mainly mixed tyre crude oil and refined into 100 per cent drop-in diesel. Our laboratory has shown this diesel is indistinguishable from fossil diesel and will give all the performance that you expect from fossil diesel. Today we’ve put renewable diesel made from tyres, into this engine … it is a normal engine as you would find it trucks and boats, there is nothing special about it.”
Scania, one of the largest producers of heavy vehicle and industrial engines globally, is working with them to approve the fuel for use in their engines. Scania national manager Andre Arm told ABC News, “I think sustainable fuel is the future and no one can deny that there is a push worldwide to have a look at where we’re going with our conventional fuel. It shows Aussie ingenuity, it provides the possibility for fuel security and there’s the environmental benefit as well for sure.”
When we talk about innovators, we usually talk about inventors, researchers, the geniuses behind the newest technologies, but a government can also fill that role, as Queensland did just a few months ago. The Queensland government was the first jurisdiction in the world to sign on to below50, the low-carbon emissions initiative, highlighting their commitment to a more sustainable fuel industry for the state. below50 is a global campaign of WBCSD promoting the production and implementation of fuels which produce 50% less CO2 emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels.
Coupled with the biofuel mandate, the move further promotes the state’s biofuels industry, looking to capitalise on a gap in the Asia-Pacific to make Queensland a regional biofuels hub.
As the regional hub host of below50 Australia, QRFA has been driving a low-carbon fuel economy and promoting further uptake of sustainable fuels for the state and Australia.
QRFA managing director Larissa Rose said: “Queensland is in prime position to become a world leader in renewable and biofuels, with its large agriculture sector, its proximity to Asia, and possessing State Government backing.”
Queensland’s potential as a biofuel hub in the Asian Pacific region was also brought up during government meetings in D.C. back in July 2018 between Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick and the U.S. Department of the Navy, as reported in The Digest. The Minister met at the Pentagon with biofuel experts and announced the appointment of Queensland’s new US-based Strategic Biofutures Advisor, Chris Tindal.
The Queensland government and the US Department of the Navy signed a Statement of Cooperation in August 2016 to collaborate on developing alternative fuels. “Since the agreement with the US Navy was signed we have seen positive growth for the industry here, Minister Dick told Manufacturers’ Monthly. “The Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant, Australia’s first advanced pilot biofuels refinery, has been constructed, and work is underway for the production of fuels that meet military requirements.”
Innovating tomorrow, today
Southern Oil Refineries and the government aren’t the only innovators and forward thinkers in Queensland, however. You don’t have to look very far to see R&D work being done to discover the next best thing for our bioeconomy.
Researchers at the University of Queensland supported by the US Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Sugar Research Australia are testing a range of sugarcane varieties to identify which types produce ethanol most effectively and efficiently, as reported in The Digest in March. Their gene-editing of sugarcane for use in renewable energy and bio-plastics could help secure the industry’s future.
Researchers are also collaborating with the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi to investigate processes that break down sugarcane fibre to make bioplastics.
Another study being conducted by researchers at Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Tropical Coprs and Biocommodities is the first to assess biofuels from biomass before turning to bottles and will look at whether PEF from sugarcane can be more economical than PET at scale.
The three-month pilot is looking at the economic viability of turning sugarcane waste, bagasse, into other compounds including plastic bottles. It is being conducted in partnership with Mercurius Australia using a patented process created by the U.S. based parent company Mercurius Biorefining.
Funded by the Queensland Government’s A$150M Jobs and Regional Growth Fund and the aim is to take the bagasse and produce biofuel and bioplastics at scale in a sustainable manner. Dr Rackemann told Beverage Daily that “The science has been proven. The engineering now is trying to prove the economics.”
And speaking of investment…
Putting money where your mouth is
Ok, so the government is on board. Innovative companies are on board. Researchers and scientists are on board. But what about the investors? Looks like they are on board too, given the latest investment action in recent months – heck, even in the last few weeks.
Proposals were recently being accepted for the $5-million, Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund aimed at cultivating technologies that convert waste into useful products and create jobs in the state, as reported in NUU in March. Feedstocks can include food and household wastes, tyres, plastics, fats and oils, and biosolids from sewage treatment facilities.
“The Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund offers grants from $50,000 to $1 million to develop pilot, demonstration or commercial-scale projects that produce bio-based products instead of conventional fossil fuel-based products,” Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Cameron Dick tells Energy Magazine. “The fund will support projects that transform carbon-rich waste from agriculture, food processing, construction and industrial processes into bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts. Through this initiative we’ll see innovative waste processing technologies emerge that are scalable and can be deployed statewide, particularly in regional areas of Queensland.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is even promoting Queensland overseas for additional investments with a recent trip to Germany. At an event hosted by Australia’s Ambassador to Germany, Lynette Wood, the Premier said “Germany and Queensland are entering a new era of innovation-led investor relations, which will be strengthened further by the new Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Australia and my Government’s $650 million Advance Queensland initiative.”
She also met with German representatives at top companies like Bombardier Transport, ShareNow, Siemens Energy, renewables finance group KfW and waste management company Remondis International, a variety of logistics companies during her trip last week. She mentioned that DB Schenker has been involved in bringing sustainable aviation fuel to the Brisbane Airport.
Shell is even investing in Queensland, albeit for an 800-hectare endangered native forest regeneration project.
We see the makings of a positive future for Queensland – between the government’s realization that the bioeconomy is key and worth supporting, the investments in R&D and initiatives to promote biobased businesses, and the already existing entrepreneurship and innovation that is creating new technologies, Queensland is sure to lead by example.
The Maritime Union of Australia has again drawn attention on the Morrison Government’s refusal to act on fuel security after years of warnings, with new figures showing Australia now has just 22 days of petrol and 17 days of diesel at its disposal.
Australia has been non-compliant with the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation since March 2012 and the current government has since ignored several key reports.
For example, a National Energy Security Assessment was announced last April. It was sparked by concerns over declining domestic production, diminishing refining capacity and concerns over potential flashpoints in the Middle East, South China Sea and Korean Peninsula.
However, nothing has been done since then and a report in today’s Australian newspaper said the new figures have again sparked warnings from Coalition MP and security experts that the nation is dangerously exposed if a major geopolitical upheaval disrupts existing supply routes.
The newspaper said experts have also criticised a government move to spend more than $20 million buying supplies held offshore to bolster the national reserve, saying the move will do little to boost the resilience of the domestic fuel stockpile.
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said a number of inquiries and reports in recent years have focused on the important issue of fuel security, including the MUA’s report titled ‘Australia’s Fuel Security – Running on Empty’ in December last year, written by shipping expert John Francis.
“The Senate has held inquiries into both fuel security and tax avoiding flag-of-convenience shipping, while the Energy White Paper and Defence White Paper also investigated our increasing reliance on foreign fuel,” Mr Crumlin said.
“It’s doubling up on the government’s initial policy negligence in allowing Australia to lose its refinery capacity of oil we own and is sourced in our country, and then allow tax avoidance and dodgy shipping governance to replace our domestic shipping capacity. No one has been at the wheel of energy security in Canberra for a very long time. It’s a joke with very few laughs for Australian jobs, economic independence and long term planning.
“In addition, the ‘Running on Empty’ report found that Australia now relies on the equivalent of almost 60 full-time fuel import tankers to keep us supplied with petrol, diesel and jet fuel, which is now all carried on the international spot market, mainly from Korea, Singapore and Japan.
“The report found Australia’s reliance on foreign flagged tankers removes any opportunity for the Commonwealth to be able to requisition national flag tankers if necessary to secure minimum import or coastal distribution requirements following major economic or geopolitical disruptions.
“The cost of addressing this risk is comparatively low: even carrying Australia’s entire import volume on a fleet of Australian tankers would cost less than one extra cent per litre.
“The Australian government needs support as a matter of urgency a number of Australian tankers as part of a national strategic fleet to ensure that some level of supplies can be maintained in the event of a crisis.”
Mr Crumlin said there are now no Australian-crewed tankers supplying fuel to our nation, down from 12 in the year 2000. At the same time, the number of refineries has halved to four. This means we now import more than 90 per cent of our fuel and that number is rising.
“Australians would expect our Government to have a better plan and this would involve more refining here and Australian-crewed ships to carry it around the coast,” he said.
“This isn’t only a matter of fuel security but also national security. Unlike Australian seafarers, foreign crews have no background checks yet they are carrying petroleum products, ammonium nitrate and LNG around the Australian coast.”
A potential crisis caused by the nation’s lack of strategic fuel reserves and over-reliance on foreign petroleum supplies could be addressed by restoring a fleet of Australian-owned tankers, according to a new report.
Written by maritime consultant John Francis, former director of the Maritime Transport Policy Centre at the Australian Maritime College, Australia’s Fuel Security: Running on Empty examines solutions to the risk of the nation grinding to a halt if fuel supplies are impacted by a global economic shock or conflict along major trade routes.
Commissioned by the Maritime Union of Australia, the report provides a detailed estimate of the number of tankers required to maintain supplies, along with the cost, per litre, of using Australian-owned and crewed tankers.
The report warns that Australia’s reliance on foreign flagged tankers “removes any opportunity for the Commonwealth to be able to requisition national flag tankers if necessary to secure minimum import or coastal distribution requirements following major economic or geopolitical disruptions to oil markets… ”
“The cost of addressing this risk is comparatively low: even carrying Australia’s entire import volume on a fleet of Australian tankers would cost less than one extra cent per litre.”
The report outlines major industry and policy shifts that have seen Australia go from producing and refining most of its fuel needs at the turn of the century, to an overwhelming reliance on foreign imports. Last financial year, 91 per cent of Australia’s refined petroleum was imported or produced from imported oil, while more than half involved ‘just-in-time shipments’ on vessels carrying finished petrol, diesel, jet fuel and other products. Of the 677 tankers that visited Australia in 2017, not one was owned, managed or crewed by Australians.
It also highlights the fact that Australia is the only International Energy Agency member country that fails to meet its 90-day fuel stockholding obligation, which has been the case since early 2012, with government statistics showing fuel reserves are generally less than three weeks.
Mr Francis produced detailed costings, per litre of cargo, for a range of scenarios involving the use of tankers owned, managed and crewed by Australians, finding this additional cost could be spread across the entire import volume to provide a “very modest cost per litre.
“The cost of five Australian ships spread across the projected import volume … in 2018-19 results in a cost of less than one-tenth of a cent per litre.
“Even if the whole future import volume covered by 60 ships, the cost is less than 1 cent per litre,” he found.
With more than 90 per cent of petroleum products shipped to Australia on foreign tankers — much of it through potential conflict zones — MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey said Australia was sleepwalking into a major fuel security crisis.
“The government’s own statistics show that across Australia we have less than three weeks of fuel reserves,” Mr Tracey said.
“In the worst case scenario, a major economic crisis or a conflict that disrupts the supply chain — such as in the South China Sea — could cut fuel supplies, leaving us with just three weeks in reserve before transport systems collapse, food supplies are impacted, and essential services cut.
“At the turn of the century, there were 12 Australian-owned tankers supplying our fuel needs, but this entire fleet has been lost, replaced with an almost-total reliance on foreign imports of crude and refined petroleum products.
“In May, the Turnbull government finally announced a National Energy Security Assessment would be undertaken to examine declining domestic production, diminishing refining capacity, and the risks posed by potential flashpoints in the Middle East and South China Sea.
“To be comprehensive, this risk assessment must also examine the risk of relying entirely on foreign-flagged vessels, rather than having tankers owned, managed and crewed by Australians.
“This report, by a leading maritime expert, shows that this is an extremely cost-effective option that would improve fuel security while having an imperceptible impact on prices.”
A copy of “Australia’s fuel security: It’s running on empty” is available here.
Average petrol prices increased by seven per cent in the past three months, hitting a four-year high in real terms of around 145 cents per litre (cpl) in Australia’s largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth), according to the ACCC’s latest petrol monitoring report.
Annual average prices in the five largest cities in real terms steadily fell between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 financial years. However, in 2017-18 the average price of petrol increased overall by nearly 10 per cent compared with the previous year.
“The major factors driving higher prices were an increase in international crude oil and refined petrol prices, and a lower AUD-USD exchange rate,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“The OPEC cartel in particular continues to have a damaging effect on Australian petrol prices. In late-2016 OPEC, and some other crude oil producing countries, agreed to cut production. This restricted supply into the market, which has clearly started to bite through steadily increasing petrol prices in the past financial year.
“A weaker Aussie dollar has also increased costs for wholesalers buying petrol for the Australian market, which flows through to consumers who pay for this at the pump,” Mr Sims said.
While higher global oil prices are the major factor, the ACCC report also shows that the gross margins Australian petrol retailers are obtaining for every litre sold are also adding to the price pressure motorists experience. Average gross retail margins hit a record high in 2017-18. Annual average gross indicative retail differences (GIRDs), a broad indicator of gross retail margins, in the five largest cities in 2017-18 were 12.4 cpl. This is 4.3 cpl higher than the average in real terms over the last 16 years.
“Current gross retail margins in the five largest cities are now over 50 per cent above the 16 year average since the ACCC began tracking this data,” Mr Sims said.
Brisbane motorists continue to pay the highest price for petrol of the five major cities. This continues a trend that has seen Brisbane prices being the highest of the five major cities for 18 of the past 24 months.
Regional petrol prices
The average differential between prices in the regional locations the ACCC monitors and the five largest cities fell by 1.0 cpl in 2017-18, compared with 2016-17. However, motorists in these regional locations were still paying an average of 4.4 cpl more for their petrol in 2017-18.
The ACCC has undertaken four regional petrol market studies in Darwin, Launceston, Armidale and Cairns and continues to monitor prices and margins in these locations.
“In all these locations, gross retail margins and prices continue to remain high. However it’s worth noting that prices in Cairns, while still high, are getting more competitive. This correlates with more vigorous competition following independent retailer United increasing its presence in the Cairns area,” Mr Sims said.
“This example demonstrates the value for consumers of having competition in petrol markets.”
The ACCC collects retail petrol prices for all capital cities and over 190 regional locations across Australia.
On 20 December 2017, the Treasurer issued a new direction to the ACCC to monitor the prices, costs and profits relating to the supply of petroleum products and related services in the petroleum industry in Australia.
Under the new direction, the ACCC produces quarterly petrol monitoring reports focusing on price movements in the capital cities and over 190 regional locations across Australia. It also produces industry reports that focus on particular aspects of consumer interest in the fuel market in relation to prices, costs and profits. Today’s report was the fourth issued under the direction.
Gross retail margins are the difference between average retail prices and average wholesale prices. As they do not include costs, gross retail margins should not be confused with actual retail profits. These margins are averages across the five largest cities over time. The level of prices, costs and profits vary significantly between retail operations and not all petrol retailing sites will be achieving these margins. Some will be achieving higher margins, others lower.
Annual average GIRDs in the five largest cities in real terms: 2002-03 to 2017-18. The analysis about savings from price cycles was not undertaken for Perth because it has regular weekly price cycles.
Volvo Penta’s chief technology officer Johan Carlsson and system engineer Karin Åkman discuss innovation for electromobility at the company’s new development-and-test laboratory in Gothenburg.
The latest quarterly edition of the National Energy Emissions Audit by The Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program shows Australian transport emissions are ramping up thanks to a significant increase in diesel usage.
“We’re seeing little if any further reduction in electricity generation emissions, this combined with continuing growth in diesel consumption, are likely to cause energy emissions to increase – not reduce.” said Dr Hugh Saddler, energy expert and author of the Audit.
“Improving electricity efficiency and replacing coal with renewables is the cheapest way to cut national emissions, yet the National Energy Guarantee’s 26 per cent target seeks to reverse this,
“Fossil fuel use for electricity and transport accounts for nearly three quarters of Australia’s emissions. Australia is an outliner globally, with no mandatory emissions or fuel economy standards for vehicles, leaving transport emissions to climb. While diesel cars help drivers save money based on fuel efficiency, using diesel emits around 17 per cent more than petrol by volume and now accounts for half of all petroleum emissions.
“Unless the Australian Government takes action on emissions standards, we will continue to drive up emission in the transport sector with one of the least efficient, highest emission motor vehicle fleets in the world.”
The report also showed Australia’s annual energy emissions decreased in the first quarter of 2018, thanks to the closure of the highly polluting Hazelwood power station.
“Decreased energy emissions over this three-month period were entirely caused by lower electricity generation emissions, resulting from the closure of Hazelwood power station,” Dr Saddler said.
Bring on electric power
On the supplier side of the equation, Volvo Penta has set 2021 as deadline to introduce electric power.
With the aim of becoming a driving force in sustainable power systems, Volvo Penta is going full charge into hybrid and all-electric drivelines, offering electrified engines in both its marine and industrial segments by 2021.
Underpinned by the success of hybrid and all-electric technology introduced by the Volvo Group, Volvo Penta’s electrified powerplants will demonstrate the company’s long-term commitment to offering the latest and most appropriate power source for their user applications.
“Volvo Penta is embracing the electric transformation and will be at the forefront in delivering compelling business cases to customers using this new technology,” says Björn Ingemanson, president of Volvo Penta.
“We will take a full systems supplier approach helping our customers in the transition to the new technology. This will happen application-by-application, on the basis that the business case for switching to electric will differ across our many customer segments.
“This is the start of a long-term transition,” he adds. “Diesel and gasoline-powered primary drive systems will remain the most appropriate power source for many applications for years to come.”
Time to start switching over
“Volvo Penta is already several years into its electrification journey,” said chief technology officer Johan Inden.
“We have spent this time building competencies, experience and establishing the technologies required to deliver a sustainable power road map. The advanced engineering projects we are currently running and the performance data received gives us confidence that we are on the right technology path to offer customers a compelling business case for electrification.”
As part of this increased commitment, Volvo Penta has restructured its organisation to accelerate the switch towards electrified power and has committed to an ambitious ramping up of its electrification investment program. An electromobility development-and-test laboratory has also been established at its Swedish headquarters.
Revisions to Crown Equipment’s entry-level internal combustion-engined 2-3 tonne forklift range have improved its performance, appearance and ergonomics.
The new GX Plus Series, which offers diesel and LPG engine choices, comes with a completely redesigned counterweight for improved airflow to maximise cooling capacity. The redesign also modernises its appearance.
The updates have also made it easier for drivers to monitor the functions of GX Plus Series forklifts, with a new instrument panel displaying coolant and transmission oil temperatures, fuel level and operating hours, oil pressure and alternator voltage.
The GX Plus Series retains the 3.3-litre Yanmar ‘Tier 3’ diesel engine that produces 44 kilowatts of power and 181 Newton metres peak torque at a low 1600rpm. The 2.5-litre Mitsubishi LPG engine, which develops 46kW and 181Nm, is also retained.
The improved cooling capacity, combined with a dual-element air cleaner, helps both engines provide reliable performance between service intervals. Both engines combine with a rigid transaxle and single-speed Powershift transmission for low maintenance costs.
The GX Plus Series’ improved instrumentation adds to the sound ergonomics in the comfort and productivity-focused cabin, which features generous legroom, ergonomically-located pedals, low cowl height and overhead guard designed for visibility and an adjustable-reach steering column.
Crown’s director of sales and marketing Craig Kenchington said the GX Plus Series’ revisions, combined with Crown’s renowned Australia-wide service levels and spare part support, help keep it the go-to choice in entry-level forklifts.
“The GX Plus Series offers the level of reliability, performance and operator-focused ergonomics typically available from Crown, but at an entry price that makes it attractive to companies that don’t run their forklifts all day and might otherwise be considering a second-hand unit,” Mr Kenchington said.
“Its improved ergonomics have made it a stronger proposition for both operators and owners whilst its improved cooling performance makes it better suited to working in hot Australian conditions.
“The GX Plus Series’ well-regarded diesel and LPG engine choices, bulletproof drivetrain and task-focused cabin mean it’s a serious proposition that can help make small businesses into bigger ones,” he said.
Leading transport fuels supplier Caltex Australia is offering a discount
of 8.25 cents per litre for diesel customers attending the 2015 Brisbane Truck
Show this week.
Available exclusively for Brisbane Truck Show delegates, the three-month
discount offer is redeemable at Caltex’s industry-leading National Truck
Network (NTN) comprising of over 200 fuel locations. NTN is Australia’s largest
network of sites specifically designed to accommodate heavy vehicles.
Caltex Australia General Manager Marketing Bruce Rosengarten explained that
locations forming part of the NTN would offer the discount on the full range of
high-quality diesel products.
According to Mr Rosengarten, the high competition in the transport
industry is encouraging heavy vehicle operators to look for ways to make their
businesses more efficient, reduce operational costs and improve productivity. Caltex
Australia launched the NTN last year in response to the needs of their customers.
The fuel discount introduced this year will help their customers save on fuel
expenses while introducing them to Caltex’s range of advanced fuel and
Since the launch of the NTN in 2014, Caltex has invested in further network
expansion and increased the availability of AdBlue at the pump.
Along with the fuel discount offer, Caltex Australia is also giving away
a chance to win a V8 VIP Experience, including a hot lap with 2014 V8 Supercars
champion Jamie Whincup and motor racing legend Craig Lowndes.
Caltex Australia is showcasing their products on stand 117 at the
Brisbane Truck Show.
The Brisbane Truck Show runs until Sunday 17 May.
Caltex has begun supplying on site diesel as part of its $200 million contract wit the Roy Hill iron ore mine.
The two year contract will see “Caltex supplying about 120 million litres of diesel to Roy Hill over the course of the contract to meet all the mine’s fuel needs during this important start-up phase and as production is expanded,” Caltex’s national manager business to business sales, Phil Amos, said.
“We recently commissioned on site fuel storage infrastructure at Roy Hill as part of our commitment to manage all of the mine’s diesel requirements,” he said.
“Deploying a fleet of four dedicated road trains, we will transport diesel about 400 kilometres by road from Caltex’s 40 million litre storage terminal at Port Hedland to facilities at the Roy Hill mine.”
The terminal is one of 12 operated by Caltex nationally.
The fuel will be used for trucks and power generation on site.
Caltex will also supply the diesel powered locomotives that will haul the iron ore from Roy Hill to Port Hedland.
Minerals Council of Australia CEO Brendan Pearson will today insist that the government keep diesel tax breaks for companies operating in remote locations.
Pearson will appear before a senate committee today to defend the fuel credits scheme that provides tax breaks for the use of diesel in off-road capacities.
He will also reject arguments that miners already receive significant subsidies, and say that any call to scrap the tax break is part of a “thinly disguised anti-mining agenda”.
Diesel is widely used in all segments of the mining industry to fuel generators, heavy machinery and light vehicles, especially in remote locations.
Tax paid on the diesel used in such situations is currently refunded to companies, a scheme that has been in place for about sixty years for industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, health services, construction, as well as arts and recreation.
The fuel tax credit was reduced by six cents a litre as part of the carbon tax to put a price on the carbon content in diesel, which will be replaced if the carbon tax is repealed.
“Every year, the Productivity Commission conducts an exhaustive analysis of industry assistance. In the most recent … review concluded that budget and tariff assistance to the mining industry was negligible,” Pearson said.
Pearson will tell the inquiry the Commission of Audit is timely because Australia faces a budget repair challenge.
“But equally we need to recognise that the means by which fiscal repair is achieved will have a major bearing on growth, investment and job creation,” Pearson said.