Australian oil major Caltex has built what it claims to be the world’s first “portable solar-powered diesel fuel outlets”, designed to provide easy, 24-hour access to diesel fuel to trucks in remote parts of Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
Caltex Australia’s diesel refuelling sites at Tom Price and Onslow, both more than 1300km from Perth, are not connected to mains power, instead using solar and battery storage technology to drive the pumps.
The stations will be unmanned, offering diesel 24 hours a day via a card payment system.
The company said in a statement on Monday that it had pioneered the “environmentally-friendly initiative” to further extend the reach of its National Truck Network – the largest truck refuelling network in Australia, comprising 200 dedicated truck stops and 300 truck-friendly sites across the country.
Whether using clean energy to provide around-the-clock access to heavily polluting diesel fuel can actually be described as “environmentally friendly” might be open to debate, but it is at least a step in the right direction by a company whose primary business is in fossil fuels.
According to Caltex network development manager WA, Leon Calvetti, the biggest challenge of supplying diesel fuel in remote parts of Australia isn’t about logistics, but about remote energy supply, as well as staffing.
“The obstacle is powering the pumps so the fuel can get into the customer’s tank – it’s very expensive and inefficient to run a generator when there are only a handful of customers every day.
“By creating what we believe are the world’s first fully solar-powered fuel facilities, we can efficiently provide diesel in some of the most remote locations of Australia,” he said.
A further environmental benefit of the portable diesel pumping stations is that they can be easily decommissioned when no longer needed in any one particular spot.
“If that happens we can simply relocate the entire facility to a new part of the country, as everything on the site is easily transportable by truck,” Calvetti said.
“The whole design is tailored to Australian conditions, given the abundant sun and the long distances between service stations.”
Presumably, when Australia’s truck transport fleets switch to electric vehicle technology, they might not be be needed at all.