Fat of the lamb

Element - - Upfront - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

Could lack of govern­ment sup­port snuff out tal­low based biodiesel?

Tal­low – shred­ded shredd and slow-boil beef or mut­ton fat, has been used us as an en­ergy source for about a thou­sand years, year pri­mar­ily as a cheap al­ter­na­tive to wax in can­dles. can­dle It now has a po­ten­tial new lease of life as a source s of bio­fuel, but a ma­jor New Zealand ini­tia­tive to get this up and run­ning could be stalled by cur­rent com­mer­cial c re­al­i­ties and a lack of govern­ment sup­port. sup­por Ac­cord­ing to the Bioen­ergy Bioen As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand (BANZ), this coun­try pro­duces pro about 150,000 tonnes of tal­low per year, mainly as a by-prod­uct from meat pro­cess­ing. Most of this could be made into biodiesel, es­pe­cially since pre­vi­ous con­cerns over this fuel’s use in cold cli­mates have now been dis­pelled. Ac­cord­ing to the in­dus­try, this could cre­ate creat 120 to 150 mil­lion litres of high­qual­ity biodiesel, or some som five per cent of to­tal diesel sale, within about five years. And biodiesel pro­duces only about a quar­ter of the green­house gas emis­sions of the fos­sil fuel va­ri­ety. Auck­land-based Ecodiesel is one of the com­pa­nies vy­ing to make bet­ter use of this re­source, most of which is cur­rently ex­ported, prin­ci­pally for use in an­i­mal foods and chem­i­cals man­u­fac­ture. The com­pany’s multi-mil­lion dol­lar One­hunga fa­cil­ity should be pro­duc­ing about 20 mil­lion litres of biodiesel a year by now, and dou­ble that in two year’s time. In­stead, it’s sit­ting half-built with a skele­ton staff, while the com­pany waits to hear whether the govern­ment’s Biodiesel Grants Scheme, which has helped jump-start the fledg­ling in­dus­try, will con­tinue be­yond its cur­rent ex­piry date of June 2012. The $36 mil­lion grant scheme gives up to 42.5 cents per litre to biodiesel pro­duc­ers who sell 10,000 or more litres of el­i­gi­ble biodiesel each month. Chair­man Lind­say Fer­gus­son says: “It’s ex­tremely frus­trat­ing. We have been to the govern­ment with our in­vestors, with a signed agree­ment con­di­tional only on the scheme be­ing ex­tended. New Zealand could be well down the track on sig­nif­i­cant, sus­tain­able biofuels pro­duc­tion within six to eight months if govern­ment wants it.” Con­nie Croock­shanks from BANZ says: “We are aware of a num­ber of lead­ing op­er­a­tors of fleet ve­hi­cles in New Zealand look­ing for a means to re­duce their car­bon emis­sions and in­ter­ested in biodiesel, but the lack of cer­tainty around the grant scheme is mak­ing them hes­i­tant to com­mit. It’s the worst chicken and egg sit­u­a­tion imag­in­able.” A spokesper­son for the Min­istry of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment said the scheme has been re­viewed but a de­ci­sion has not yet been made re­gard­ing whether fund­ing should con­tinue be­yond June 2012.

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