Biofuels – the facts

Biofuel is a fuel that is produced from renewable resources, especially plants, vegetable oils, or treated municipal and industrial wastes.

What is biofuel?

Biofuel is a non-mineral based fuel, so it’s something that’s not extracted from the ground.  It is made from many different sources.  Currently available sources are divided into biodiesel (for vehicles that normally run on diesel) and bioethanol (for vehicles that normally run on petrol).  Biomethane is an additional fuel source in small volumes at the time of writing.

The majority of biofuel available for retail sale in service stations in New Zealand comes from waste by-products of industry.  This means that something that previously didn’t have a high value usage is now being converted into a fuel supply for our transportation needs.

biofuels 2In the early 2000s there was a heated debate over the sustainability of specific types of feedstocks used to create biofuels, such as food crops being grown to produce energy rather than food. There are now a number of very good third party labels: the best label for biofuels is the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels certification, which is an independent, global, multi-stakeholder coalition that works to promote the sustainability of biofuels. It has a certification scheme which verifies that biofuels are ethical, sustainable and credibly-sourced.

Scientists are constantly experimenting with new sources and new processes with which to make biofuels. In New Zealand, work on second generation biofuels is underway with research groups investigating exciting new options for making biofuels, such as from wood waste and algae.  These options stand to be more sustainable due to their abundance globally, their low impact and embedded emissions (i.e. the emissions created during extraction, transportation and manufacture).

How do I know that the biofuel I buy is safe?

All biofuel blends available for retail sale in New Zealand must meet Government-regulated fuel specifications. These are the same specifications that diesel and petrol must meet.  Biodiesel and bioethanol specifications are administered by the Engine Fuel Specification Regulations (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment).

All retailers are subject to the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act, so as long as you’re purchasing from a service station you know the retailer has to follow the laws that protect the user in respect to fuel quality. Avoid ‘backyard biodiesel’: In the past, a number of people sold biodiesel that did not meet Government specifications and as a result caused problems with engines. These are to be avoided.

How do I know if I can put biofuel in my car?

Biofuels are commonly in use overseas and vehicle manufacturers have aligned the design of their vehicles accordingly. In New Zealand, we mostly receive vehicles built to the same general engine specifications allowing us to use biofuels in blends up to those sold in New Zealand service stations.

If you want to double check if your vehicle is able to use low blends click here to visit the AA website which has a list of vehicles that are compatible with bioethanol 3-10 per cent blends.  Alternatively, consult with your vehicle manufacturer before use if you are still uncertain.

What is biodiesel?

In New Zealand, biodiesel usually comes from tallow (a by-product of meat processing), used cooking oil or rapeseed. When pure biodiesel is mixed with ordinary diesel, it makes a biodiesel blend with varying proportions of biofuel, e.g. B5 (biodiesel 5%), B20 (biodiesel 20%) or others.

Adding biodiesel to diesel even in small amounts can increase the lubricity of the diesel which is better for the fuel system.

Where can I buy biodiesel in New Zealand?

Gull: Diesel Max (using biodiesel predominantly made from used cooking oil) is an ultra-low sulphur diesel (with up to 5 per cent biodiesel blend depending on availability of biofuel supply).  See Gull’s biofuel infographics  for more information on where the biofuel comes from.

It is available at Gull Albany, Gull Kingsland (Central Auckland), Gull Sel Peacock (West Auckland), Gull Te Ngae (Rotorua) and Gull Melville (Hamilton).

Gull can supply commercial customers bulk orders of biodiesel at any blend ratio required, e.g. B5, B20, B100, provided customers have a certified storage tank. Please contact Gull for further information.

Green Fuels NZ:  Biofuel from used cooking oil can be blended or used up to 100 per cent depending on customer requirements.  See here for more information.

Greenfuels NZ sells biodiesel direct from its manufacturing plant in Christchurch.  If you’re a large fuel user you can get it delivered and stored in a tank on-site.  If you’re storing on-site, make sure you are following all the fuel storage recommendations and talk to your fuel provider about this if you’re unsure.

Z Energy: A manufacturing plant for tallow-derived biodiesel is currently under construction.  Construction is to be completed by 2016 with biodiesel available for commercial clients from April 2016 and at retail sites from June 2016.  This will be available for customers in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty at this stage, however if you are outside of these regions talk to their customer service team to see what they can do to help you.

Please note, information about retailers is subject to change depending on availability, so please check with your retailer for the most up to date information.

What is bioethanol?

The bioethanol available in New Zealand is produced as a by-product of the dairy industry, from sugar (imported from Brazil) or even beer. The bioethanol that you buy at the pump is a blend with petrol and is sometimes referred to as E10, E85, etc., where it contains 10 per cent and 85 per cent bioethanol respectively.

Where can I buy bioethanol?

Gull: Bioethanol is produced from repurposing waste products from the dairy industry.  It is blended with petrol to produce Gull Force 10 (10 per cent bioethanol content mixed with premium 98 octane petrol) and Gull Force Pro (85 per cent bioethanol content mixed with premium petrol).

biofuels 3Gull Force 10 (E10) is a premium (98 octane) fuel, which emits up to 8 per cent less carbon dioxide than other high performance fuels and has been endorsed by EECA as an environmentally better fuel option.  Gull Force 10 is available at all Gull sites except Gisborne.

Gull Force Pro (E85) is an extreme octane (110 plus) bioethanol blended fuel. ‘Extreme Octane’ has a higher octane rating which brings better performance from the engine.  Gull Force Pro is, however, designed for use in certain vehicles only (called flex-fuel). These vehicles are able to run on any blend level of bioethanol up to 85 per cent, as well as normal petrol. Gull Force Pro can also be used in specifically-designed high performance motor racing engines, such as motor sports and rally cars. It is not suitable for standard vehicle engines or fuel systems not specifically designed for biofuel as it may cause serious damage. Consult with your vehicle manufacturer before use. For information on how to have your car modified to run on Gull Force Pro, talk to E&H Motors.

Gull Force Pro is available at Gull Forrest Hill (North Shore, Auckland), Gull Hampton Downs (Waikato), Gull Melville (Hamilton), Gull Pukekohe and Taupiri Autostore (Waikato).

Mobil Oil New Zealand Limited: Mobil has been selling ethanol-blended petrol at selected service stations in the greater Wellington region since mid-2008. This includes E10 or E3 but varies depending on service station.  Ask your Mobil retailer for specific information.

Please note, information about retailers is subject to change depending on availability, so please check with your retailer for the most up to date information.

What is biomethane?

Biomethane is a naturally occurring gas which is produced by anaerobic digestion of organic matter such as dead animal or plant material, manure, sewage and organic waste. Chemically, it is similar to natural gas and can be used for much the same applications as natural gas.

In New Zealand biomethane is used for electricity generation (at landfill sites), for heating and as a vehicle fuel, but in small amounts. It is currently not sold commercially in New Zealand yet.

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