Fat of the lamb
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.