Teething problems at Picton biorefinery

THE new biodiesel refinery in Picton, which was officially launched last week with the assistance of federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell, is experiencing a few teething problems.
Teething problems at Picton biorefinery Teething problems at Picton biorefinery Teething problems at Picton biorefinery Teething problems at Picton biorefinery Teething problems at Picton biorefinery

A report carried by the ABC this morning indicated that the Picton plant, one of the largest biodiesel production facilities yet built in Australia, had failed to produce a biodiesel product compliant with Australian fuel standards.

Australian Renewable Fuels chief executive Darryl Butcher said the plant was “within a hair’s breadth” of achieving compliance with fuel standards, and expected to resolve the problem soon.

“During the commissioning phase some contamination gets into the plant and it takes a while to flush that material through and achieve final standard in final product," Butcher told the ABC.

ARF management were unavailable for comment this morning due to preparations for a board meeting later today; however, Butcher’s assertion that the plant just needs to complete its production ramp-up echoes the experience of other biofuel players.

EMN contacted Australian Biodiesel Group spokesman Brian Stewart to find out if its Narangba plant in Queensland – the largest (160 megalitres per annum) biodiesel plant in the country – had produced biodiesel compliant with Australian fuel standards since it officially opened on July 12, 2006.

Stewart said that the Narangba plant was still in the ramp-up phase, and although large quantities of biodiesel had been produced, ABG has not yet attempted to sell any product as transport fuel.

Although Stewart stressed that ARF’s Picton plant and ABG’s Narangba plant use different technologies that may influence the quality of the final product, he said it was not unusual for new systems to require a “flushing out” period before attempting compliant fuel production.

“That is an absolutely fair statement,” he said.

“At start-up, the fuel produced would be going around [the system] a bit until the plant is calibrated.”

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