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Fri, 23/03/2012

Bio-diesel gains recognition under renewable scheme

An innovative energy trial on King Island is reaping rewards in more ways than one.

The world-leading King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP) aims to increase the use of renewable energy in a remote setting. The project uses a combination of renewable technologies, such as wind and solar, in combination with energy storage and other enabling technologies which together will provide more than 65% of King Island’s annual energy demand. Under certain conditions,  the Island will be 100% powered by renewable energy.

Part of the project is a trial using bio-diesel in place of the current mineral diesel. Bio-diesel is derived from organic sources – in this case plant-based cooking oils and tallow (animal fat). Bio-diesel is preferred to mineral diesel because its direct emissions are only equivalent to the carbon stored during  crop growth or animal rearing. Over long periods this cycle leads to a  net effect of close to zero carbon emissions.

The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER) has approved the generation of RECs from biodiesel for the King Island Advanced Hybrid Power Station.  The use of biodiesel at the power station started in January 2012 as part of a 11-month bio-diesel trial.

KIREIP project director Simon Gamble said approval of the bio-diesel trial for RECs is a great endorsement of the renewable energy credentials of this project.

“This really provides great recognition for the innovative approach we are taking in this project, tackling a renewable energy supply challenge in a different way,” he said. 

“In addition to doing world-leading renewable energy work within KIREIP, we are being awarded RECs which can be sold in the market place creating an additional income stream.”

This is the first bio-diesel trial conducted by Hydro Tasmania. If successful, bio-diesel will become a permanent component of the King Island power system making it one of the first systems in the world to use bio-diesel on a continuous basis.

As part of the full station conversion the team expects that the diesel engines will have to be modified to cater for the different fuel. The diesel engine will be tuned differently to handle the new fuel and  the rubber seals and hoses replaced with materials that are non-reactive to biodiesel.

To ensure that the biofuel does not solidify, the fuel tanks and lines will have to be adapted to allow heating. Bio-diesel generally needs to be kept warmer than mineral diesel because it has a higher gelling temperature. Filtering in the fuel lines is also quite different – bio-diesel is a solvent, which means it removes line contaminants. The contaminants removed by bio-diesel cause more frequent blockage of filters, meaning more filter changes are needed.

The trial will finish at the end of 2012 at which point we will assess its effectiveness and determine if it will become part of the ongoing power system on King Island.