Flinders research boosts biofuels potential

A biofuel additive developed by Flinders University could significantly boost biofuel use in Australia following the product’s commercialisation by the University’s industry partners, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Midfield Group and Food Processing Equipment (FPE).

The additive lowers the temperature at which tallow-based biodiesel solidifies – a problem which causes fuel flow difficulties and has constrained the take-up of biofuels made from the waste products of abattoirs.
Leader of Flinders Materials and Bioenergy Group, Dr Stephen Clarke [pictured], said there “is a huge potential market for tallow-based biofuels, with the current consumption of petroleum diesel being around 15 billion litres annually in Australia”.
“The additive that Flinders has developed removes one of the major impediments to the use of tallow-based biofuels and this market could expand considerably, perhaps to around one billion litres a year, when our product can be added to biofuel blends,” Dr Clarke said.
Flinders’ industry partner, Meat and Livestock Australia, has secured a provisional patent over the University’s additive which can lower the solidification temperature of tallow-based biodiesel or diesel blends by about 5 degrees Celsius, to around minus 6 degrees C. The temperature difference will boost the potential to use tallow-based biofuel in colder parts of Australia and cooler climates in Europe and elsewhere.
Meat and Livestock Australia is now commercialising Flinders’ additive with other industry partners that include the Midfield Group and Food Processing Equipment. Dr Clarke’s research team will play a key role in that process as they scale up the production of the additive from laboratory to commercial quantities.
“Flinders University is very excited to be at the leading edge of a project that offers new fuel options to a world that is very keen to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels as it seeks to address climate change,” Dr Clarke said.
Biodiesel fuel is generally prepared from a blend of lipids, such as used cooking oils, tallow and vegetable oils such as canola, soyabean and palm oil. The use of Flinders additive could significantly increase the proportion of tallow-based fuel that could be included in such blends.
Flinders University’s expertise in biofuels research was reflected in the Federal Government’s decision to ask the University to host the launch, by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Mr Martin Ferguson, of its Second Generation Biofuels Research and Development Grant Program.
Flinders is also exploring the potential of developing fuels from micro-algae and cellulose and wood waste.
The University hosted a workshop Australian Biofuels: Towards a sustainable future with its research partners which include SARDI, CSIRO and the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

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