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by Matt Brogan

It almost reads like a scene from Back to the Future: new green fuel technology plant makes E85 fuel from household garbage.

A new consortium formed between the Victorian State Government and a group of leading companies – which includes Holden, Caltex, Veolia, Mitsui and Coskata – will investigate the possibility of establishing Australia’s first ethanol plant capable of converting materials such as household rubbish and building waste in to more than 200 million litres of ethanol per year.

The ethanol will then be blended with petrol to form E85 fuel; a mixture of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent unleaded petrol.

Holden Energy and Environment Director, Mr Richard Marshall, said the organisations within the consortium were “committed to sustainable motoring through the development of renewable fuels that reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved energy security”.

“Our vision is that this technology will, in time, cut Australia’s dependence on petrol by up to 30 per cent and make a major contribution to sustainable motoring and greenhouse gas reduction,” Mr Marshall said.

Holden plan to introduce Australia’s first locally produced flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on the high-ethanol fuels such as E85, later this year.

“We’ve always said we’d take a leadership position on biofuels, and provide the vehicles to do that. We’re committed to having locally built Holden cars capable of running on E85 in the market by 2010,” said Mr Marshall.

“It’s about designing and engineering vehicles for Australians, built by Australians, using Australian fuel alternatives.”

Holden’s development of E85 capable vehicles is part of parent company General Motor’s global sustainability and energy diversity strategy. GM has sold more than 3.5 million E85-capable cars to date.

So far the practicality of selling E85 vehicles in Australia has fallen short with little or no refueling infrastructure available. Caltex Australia’s General Manager of Marketing, Mr Andy Walz, said the company had signed an agreement with Holden which committed to installing pumps in 30 metropolitan and regional service stations later this year, increasing to 100 within 12 months.

“Caltex’s expansion into this new fuel and participation in the consortium is part of our ongoing commitment to biofuels and tackling climate change, which fits well with a strategy of providing energy beyond the traditional fuel mix,” Mr Walz said.

“Caltex already has about 400 service stations that sell E10 and a growing biodiesel market. We believe the biofuels industry has a vital role in a sustainable transport fuels future and that biofuels are good business opportunity for Caltex.”

The plant, which will likely be built in Victoria, would produce ethanol using a process developed by leading US biofuel company Coskata Inc, which last year unveiled one of the world’s first plants capable of producing ethanol from material such as agricultural waste and household garbage.

But Chief Marketing Officer, Mr Wes Bolsen, says not all biofuels were created equal.

“At Coskata, we don’t make fuel from food crops, we use sources like municipal waste that have reached the end of their lifecycle and turn them into renewable energy, which leads to a net positive effect for the environment,” Mr Bolsen said.

Mr Simon Tori, Victorian Group General Manager for Veolia Environmental Services, said the initiative was a big step forward from the way in which Victoria currently receives, sort and treats its waste.

“Deriving energy from municipal, commercial and industrial waste that is otherwise bound for landfill, is an exciting possibility and such a facility will enable Veolia to be at the forefront of the emerging Advanced Resource Recovery Treatment sector.”

A date for construction of the plant has not yet been discussed. CarAdvice will keep you posted.




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