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Fonterra Explores Alternative Fuel


Fonterra Explores Alternative Fuel

While oil companies are prospecting off both sides of the North Island, dairy company Fonterra is working on a source of fuel available above ground.

That fuel is ethanol, produced by Fonterra from the whey left behind during the manufacture of casein. Fonterra’s ethanol is used in everything from medicine to methylated spirits, now the company is looking to add motor cars to the list.

For the last month, Fonterra Edgecumbe transport depot manager Darrell Paterson has been running his 1.8 litre Hyundai on a mixture of petrol containing 10 percent ethanol, and the brightly coloured vehicle has been attracting plenty of interest – both in the Bay of Plenty and beyond.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority-approved fuel is specially blended for Fonterra by petrol company Gull, and Mr Paterson says his car has been going great guns since he switched to the new blend.

Anchor Ethanol General Manager Tim Mackle says the concept is nothing new. About one-fifth of all petrol sold in the United States contains up to 10 percent ethanol (Henry Ford called it the fuel of the future) and in Brazil, the world’s largest producer of ethanol, standard petrol contains 24 percent ethanol.

The fuel also has significant environmental benefits. It is renewable, biodegradable, and, by reducing the amount of fossil fuel in use, could help the campaign to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Anchor Ethanol produces ethanol at three Fonterra sites – Edgecumbe, Tirau and Reporoa. Fonterra Edgecumbe Ethanol Process Manager James Holani, responsible for managing the current project, says there are plans to switch a couple of the vehicles used by Edgecumbe’s irrigation team to the new fuel, but potential for further conversions is currently limited because ethanol petrol blends are not publically available at the pumps.

“At the moment, the only place they can fill up is at the Edgecumbe site,” he says.

Mr Holani says he hopes the results of Fonterra’s continuing demonstration, combined with ethanol’s success overseas, will lead to the new fuel soon being made commercially available. More information on ethanol petrol blends is available on the web from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority at http://www.energywise.org.nz/ontheroad/ontheroad_ethanol.asp


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