Virgin Australia starts first Brisbane trials of using a locally sourced biodiesel blend in ground service vehicles
The Ecotech Biodiesel facility
Wed 16 May 2012 – In a first for an Australian airline, Virgin Australia is to undertake an eight-week trial involving the use of a biodiesel blend derived from locally sourced tallow and used cooking oil in a baggage tug and a push-back vehicle at Brisbane Domestic Airport. Produced by Ecotech Biodiesel at a local facility in Queensland, the biofuel is blended 20/80 with conventional diesel. If the trial proves successful, the airline says it will roll out biodiesel to its ground service equipment fleet in Brisbane and other mainline airports, which it estimates could reduce carbon emissions by 300 tonnes per year.
Virgin Australia said the use of biodiesel complemented its renewable fuel strategy to procure a sustainable, reliable and economic supply of aviation fuel to meet the airline’s aspirational target of 5% renewable fuel use from 2020.
“At Virgin Australia, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations both in the air and on the ground,” commented the airline’s Group Executive of Operations, Sean Donohue. “Using a biodiesel blend in all of our baggage tugs and push-back vehicles would help us reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by our ground operations.
“Biodiesel is commercially available now, cost-competitive with conventional petro-diesel and helps improve our fuel economy. We were also drawn to Ecotech Biodiesel because its activities support Australian jobs, regional Australia and our natural environment.”
Ecotech supplies biodiesel to several fuel companies for use in B5 and B20 blends and its facility 35km north of Brisbane can produce up to 30 million litres of fuel per year. It currently makes its biodiesel from used cooking oil in winter and from tallow (animal fat) in summer. Refuelling Solutions, another Australian company, is providing logistical support and storage for the trial.
Virgin Australia is also involved in projects to develop sustainable jet biofuel for aircraft use. It is part of a Western Australian consortium that is planning to use pyrolysis technology to process mallees, a species of eucalypt tree that can be grown sustainably in many parts of the country. A demonstration unit has been planned to become operational this year and could lead to a commercial-scale plant being in production by 2014.
Along with Air New Zealand, it signed a MoU with Australian biofuel company Licella in December 2011 to assist with the development of technology to convert ligno-cellulosic biomass such as wood waste into sustainable jet biofuel.