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NZ's First Biogas Fuelled Rubbish Truck Hits the Road

New Zealand's First Biogas Fuelled Rubbish Truck Hits the Road

• A kiwi project team has successfully converted landfill gas to vehicle fuel for the first time in New Zealand.

• In another New Zealand first the project is running a dual-fuel converted diesel rubbish truck on biogas.

• The 'waste to fuel' project at the Redvale Energy Park has the potential to produce 54 million LDE (litres of diesel equivalent) annually.

• Transpacific Industries, which owns Redvale, aspires to see fleet vehicles run on biogas.

• At least 5% of New Zealand's current transport fuel needs could be met with biogas from municipal and rural waste.

Imagine if the waste truck collecting your bins was powered by what you'd thrown out the week before. For residents in Auckland's Rodney District that's about to become a reality thanks to an innovative environmental project at the Redvale Energy Park (Landfill) where the country's first waste collection truck fuelled by Biogas (biomethane) from Auckland's waste is about to hit the road.

It's the first time in New Zealand that landfill gas has been converted to vehicle fuel and NIWA Research Engineer Stephan Heubeck, who has initiated and co-ordinated the project since 2008, says up to 5% of New Zealand's current transport fuel requirements could be met with biogas from municipal and rural wastes that require treatment and handling.

"If more effort was put into recovering biogas from currently under-utilised wastes, by-products and agricultural residues the percentage could be higher still. This project shows the value chain from waste to biogas recovery to biogas use as a vehicle fuel. All the partners in this project have put in significant expertise and resources to take this from an idea to a reality," Heubeck says.

The biogas fuelled truck will be on the collection run within the next few weeks as the project team assesses its on-road performance. For New Zealand, which derives about half of its consumer energy from oil, most of it imported, the "waste to fuel" project is bringing to life the possibilities that biogas holds for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and diversifying transport fuel needs towards more renewable and domestically sourced supplies.

The team working on the project see this as just the first step towards New Zealand following the lead of Europe and the US where biogas is increasingly being used as a fuel. The Redvale Biogas Project is a significant collaborative undertaking between Transpacific Industries, Greenlane Biogas, NIWA and DieselGas International Ltd. Greenlane Biogas has provided a biogas upgrading plant for installation at the Redvale site, NIWA has provided biogas expertise as well as a gas compressor and DieselGas has developed and provided a dual fuel waste collection truck which operates on the biogas fuel produced on-site.

Biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced when organic material such as food scraps, wood and garden waste is microbiologically decomposed in the absence of oxygen. For over 10 years pipes deep within the Redvale landfill, owned by Transpacific Industries, have extracted around 90% of the methane produced by the breakdown of organic waste in the landfill and supplied it to an on-site electricity generation facility. This has made the Redvale site Auckland's leading producer of renewable electricity, currently capable of powering around 11,000 homes.

Transpacific's Managing Director, Tom Nickels, says the company's work to turn biogas from Auckland's waste to renewable energy at their own Redvale landfill and Whitford landfill, in partnership with Auckland Council, has seen it become the country's leading producer in the field, but they've got big plans to increase the use of biogas which, he says, is a valuable resource that offsets the use of fossil fuels.

"What most think of as a harmful greenhouse gas is a valuable resource if managed correctly and one that New Zealand must increasingly invest in if we are to achieve our goals of cutting emissions and reliance of fossil fuels. Extracting biogas from waste, whether it's human waste, household, industrial or agricultural waste is a huge environmental opportunity for Auckland and for New Zealand."

The energy resource available from the Redvale Energy Park is significant. Projected peak gas flows, forecast for 2025, would place Redvale as New Zealand's 9th largest gas field (based on 2009 gas field outputs)[i]. The Redvale project has the potential to produce 54 million LDE (litres of diesel equivalent) on a yearly basis, easily fuelling the equivalent of Transpacific's nationwide fleet of waste collection trucks and machinery, with a significant surplus available for external uses. "Our ultimate goal is to produce a vehicle fuel from landfill biogas that has the potential to power Auckland's fleet of refuse trucks. This would be a New Zealand first and right up there with international best practice," says Nickels.

NIWA's Stephan Heubeck says that biogas is the most versatile renewable energy resource, capable of providing heat, electricity as well as being a transport fuel: "So far most New Zealand biogas schemes have focused on the provision of electricity and heat, but biogas as transport fuel does offer the highest value proposition. Biogas to vehicle fuel schemes require specialist biogas processing equipment, vehicles and the right local or regional setting, and with the Redvale project we are going to demonstrate that the pathway is a practical solution that is economically and environmentally sensible."

"The technology required for the use of biogas as vehicle fuel has advanced very rapidly in recent years, and we are very fortunate to have world leading technology providers Greenlane Biogas and DieselGas International Ltd based in New Zealand. Their input has been essential in making this project a reality", says Heubeck.

Greenlane Biogas and DieselGas are actively involved in international biogas vehicle fuel schemes, supplying world leading equipment and services. New Zealand entities with biogas resources and transport fuel users alike have much to gain from the international experience of these Kiwi companies, and with the Redvale project the first steps have been taken to start introducing biogas vehicle fuel technology on our shores.

Tom Nickels says the project is a substantial collaborative effort that showcases world leading green-technology. "We are committed to investing in biogas vehicle fuel technology to provide a more attractive and beneficial use for landfill gas. We want to work with Government and Local Bodies around the country to ensure that New Zealand's waste isn't being wasted. Biogas is an affordable, reliable and sustainable fuel and we need to ensure New Zealand has the right incentives in place to encourage investment and innovation in this area."

Transpacific Industries, Greenlane Biogas, NIWA and DieselGas International Ltd acknowledge the support received from EECA and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for this project.


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