Green Fuels Biodiesel

March 2016

Green Fuels manufactures biodiesel from waste cooking oils collected in the greater Christchurch area

Green Fuels manufactures biodiesel from waste cooking oils collected in the greater Christchurch area. The company produces about 500,000 litres annually, which it blends with ordinary diesel and sells to environmentally conscious users. One of its customers, the laundry company Apparelmaster Christchurch, uses a 10% blend as part of its strategy to reduce its carbon footprint and this was a factor in its winning an environmental award.

Martin Johnson worked as a manager for Biodiesel New Zealand, which was Solid Energys biodiesel manufacturing business. His role included overseeing the farms growing rapeseed for oil, pressing and processing the oil and press cake. At the time there was a subsidy of 42.5c/litre of biodiesel sold, but when that was cancelled, Solid Energy decided to sell the biodiesel business. They split it into the agricultural side (the growing of rape seed and pressing of the products) and the biodiesel side - manufacturing and selling direct to customers.

A group of four, including myself, another manager, one of our customers and someone from the used cooking oil industry, got together and purchased the business, says Martin.

We rebranded it Green Fuels but retained the Biogold brand name for the biodiesel. Solid Energy originally grew the rapeseed as a raw material for biofuel production but without the subsidy it was not competitive with ordinary diesel. However, as a waste product from the food industry it was competitive, so we changed the business to using 100% recycled vegetable oil. The new company started trading in February 2013 with just two employees, who shared all the processing functions and took care of deliveries.

Almost all the production is sold as a diesel/biodiesel blend, typically 5%. We produce about 500,000 litres of biodiesel each year and sell it as blends with ordinary diesel. Total deliveries amount to about 5 million litres, says Martin.

Most customers are buying a 5% blend and you could see that as just tokenism, but at the end of the day youve got to do what will work. People want to do the right thing by the environment, but are not necessarily prepared to pay a lot more for it. A 5% blend is still a more environmentally friendly fuel, it deals with a product that would otherwise be a waste, and it substitutes for imports. And at the 5% level we can at least match and sometimes better the price of ordinary diesel.

Green Fuels buys the waste oil under contract from another company, then filters it to remove food particles and water. The oil then goes through the process of transesterification with alcohol to produce biodiesel and glycerol.

It is basically the thinning of the oil to get the right viscosity for use in an engine. We mix it with methanol and potassium hydroxide and it goes through a big eggbeater to mix it. After a couple of reactions you get a mixture of 80% biodiesel and 20% glycerin, says Martin.

At that stage the biodiesel is alkaline and it has to be made pH neutral, so we do an acid wash and then remove any water, do some more filtering to purify it and then send samples away for testing to make sure it meets the specifications for use in engines. It is a batch process and production runs are about 40,000 litres at a time.

The factory is the only one of its type in NZ. Z Energy is building a tallow processing plant in Auckland but tallow is not suitable as a raw material in the South Island because it starts to gel at around 6C. 100% biodiesel will gel at around -6 and once blended with ordinary diesel it will flow down to about -15 C.

Customers for Green Fuels blends include a large construction company, municipal boilers and many smaller companies wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. One such is the Christchurch commercial laundry Apparelmaster Christchurch that launders industrial items such as overalls, tablecloths, mats, towels, hand towels, table and bed linen for the hospitality industry. Manager Alan Borthwick says that they use a 10% biodiesel blend to enhance the sustainability aspects of the business.

We are an environmentally conscious company and we know that laundries can be quite wasteful so we make efforts to reduce fuel and water use and our carbon footprint for the benefit of our customers and the environment, says Alan.

We have been doing that for quite some time and we have a third party monitoring what we do, so we know how well we are performing. A couple of years ago we won an environmental award for our efforts and we are still operating at the same level.

We have a fleet of a dozen or so vehicles and a large diesel steam boiler in the laundry. As a result our fuel use is around 25,000 litres per month so using biodiesel certainly helps with our environmental effort and makes good sense.