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CQU team behind biodiesel made from waste oil in talks with Caltex

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A Central Queensland University (CQU) research team that is converting waste grease and oil into biodiesel has attracted the attention of an international oil major, ahead of plans to go into commercial production some time this year.

ABC Online reports that the team of teachers and students from the Mackay CQU campus have come up with a cheap and easy way to make a renewable biodiesel, by putting used cooking oil into a filter tank and then passing it through a centrifuge. The oil is then heated and cleaned, and some additives are put in.

According to UCQ fabrication teacher Paul Kelly, the process takes just five minutes to chemically change cooking oil into biodiesel, and costs 30 cents to make a litre of

 Photo: Fabrication teacher Paul Kelly hopes production at CQ University's plant will start some time this year. Source: ABC Online

Photo: Fabrication teacher Paul Kelly hopes production at CQ University’s plant will start some time this year. Source: ABC Online

fuel.

Meanwhile, the team – in which the average age of the students is just 16 years – has also spent the past five years building a pilot plant to test the production of the biofuel at scale; a project that has caught the attention of industry, and major fuel company Caltex.

Vocational Trades and Engineering dean Stephen Bird told the ABC that very serious talks were underway between the University and Caltex, and that the oil company was testing the fuel at laboratories in Melbourne and Brisbane.

The hope is that the first CQU blend could be fuelling vehicles later this year. But there is a way to go yet.

“This plant hasn’t fully been tested for its capacity yet,” said Kelly. “Figures are millions of litres per year.

“We’re extremely committed to getting this to the commercial stage.

“This is a pioneering project. We’re breaking new ground, making new connections with industry, and we’ve got a very bright future.”

As the ABC notes, a biofuels mandate is set to come into effect in Queensland in mid-2017 that will mean 3 per cent of unleaded fuel and 0.5 per cent of diesel being sold must come from renewable sources.

Kelly said the fuel that was being produced by CQU could already be used to power diesel engines, but the team was still waiting on final Australian Fuels Certification.


“We never expected it to go to this level. It’s amazing and exciting,” he said.

“This is a common sense way to clean up the environment and turn a waste product into low-carbon diesel.”  

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  • Alistair Spong

    The question needs to be asked, is burning waste oil the best way to recycle it? Waste cooking oil is already used in feedstock for cattle and exported to china to make soap.
    How much carbon pollution does it save against diesel ?

    • david_fta

      Export to China? There’d be a fair bit of Bunker ‘C’ fuel oil used for that, wouldn’t there?

      Much better to use it for biodiesel here – the Chinese can use their ships for hydroponic canola, or something.

      • Alastair Leith

        you got any idea how much canola it would take to fuel Chinese tankers? I don’t know but I saw this interesting headline that I couldn’t verify the other day that the largest 15 transport boats in the world use as much fuel as all the cars in the world(?!)

        • david_fta

          Frankly, it doesn’t matter how much canola it would take to fuel any ships; what does matter is that it is critical that digging up buried carbon and putting it in the air ceases as soon as possible.

          If that means a shipload of nations, and a shedload of corporations, and a bundle of politicians all need to completely rethink their entire business plans, so be it; that would be less damaging than the world we will otherwise bequeath to our heirs and successors.

          • Alastair Leith

            the point is biofuels at the cost of food production and long term sequestration are a pipe dream. BZE Transport plan was struggling to find enough biofuels just to cover the parts of transportation they could electrify from Australia’s entire stock of bio-waste. And that bio-waste would be good, and arguably better placed, if it was returned to our mostly fragile soils.

            the only hope for replacing FFs with biofuels is if the algae stuff works out and so far the only people making money from that are the conference organisers and the journals.

        • John Bromhead

          It isn’t the amount of fuel used by the 15 largest ships but the amount of SOx produced because of the large amount of sulphur in the bunker oil that is estimated to be as much as all the worlds cars.. Not withstanding that, the CO2e emitted by the world’s shipping fleet would place it eighth if it were a country.

          • Alastair Leith

            thanks for information John — much appreciated.

  • Alastair Leith

    there’s plenty of backyard operators doing this already fuelling a few Mercedes sedans and tractors but it doesn’t scale — not even close. And if it’s from grease and oil that came from petrol-chemical sources it’s not sustainable and not renewable and not smart at all.

    • Jacob

      Yep.

      Instead of mandating that 3% of petrol comes from plants, why not mandate that 3% of cars registered in Queensland have to be a hybrid or fully electric.

      • Miles Harding

        This is exactly what they should be doing, but the agenda is being driven by fossil fuelled morons, so sustainability will only be tried when it’s too late.

        The state motto should be:
        Going full speed ahead to the middle of the 20th century. ™

        Sadly, not very different to many of the other states.