Victoria to get a new biodiesel storage and blending facility

According to the Victorian Government their citizens will soon have better access to biodiesel. The Government has given a $2 million grant for a new Melbourne-based blending and storage facility to Biodiesel Producers Limited (BPL) for the construction of a $4.3 million BPL biodiesel facility in Melbourne. The new facility will be based at a major fuel distribution terminal.

Until today I hadn’t heard of BPL so I’m guessing you haven’t either unless you are a Victorian. They are based in Barnawartha, 20km south of Albury-Wodonga, and are producing biodiesel mainly from tallow and smaller quantities of used cooking oils and canola oil.

Biodiesel plant

BPL: Biodiesel plant

The BPL plant uses technology acquired from Austrian company Biodiesel International AG to produce 60 million litres of biodiesel per annum, all of which meets the rigorous Australian, European, US and NZ Biodiesel Standards.

Source: The Premier of Victoria and Biodiesel Producers Limited


Economical open-rotor aircraft engines being developed for Clean Sky

Volvo Aero will help develop open-rotor aircraft engines for the EU’s Clean Sky project in conjunction with Rolls-Royce and Snecma . Open-rotor engines are essentially large turbofan engines without the ducting around the outside of the fan. In open rotor engines, the diameter will increase to more than double existing turbofan diameters, allowing the engine to work with a larger airflow, regardless of aircraft speed. This means that the energy turning the fan will be utilized more efficiently, thereby reducing fuel consumption by 15 to 20 percent.

Snecma open-rotor engine

Flight Global: Snecma open-rotor engine

Open-rotor is actually not a new concept. In the 1980’s open-rotor engines were developed when oil prices rose to USD40 per barrel. When the oil price later dropped dramatically, plans were shelved. Sound familiar? Volvo say aircraft with open-rotor engines can be in the air by the end of the decade but engineers will have to reduce the noise that is normally contained by the turbofan ducts on modern jet engines.

Flight Global as more information on the open-rotor developments for Open Sky.

Source: Volvo Group, Flight Global

Queensland Rail introduce e-mail and SMS update service

Queensland Rail (QR) is introducing a service called eRail Updates. The service provides SMS and email updates for all train services that have been delayed or disrupted by more than 15 minutes or cancelled completely. Once subscribed you receive the updates via SMS to your mobile phone or via e-mail to your nominated email address.

Brisbane traineRail Updates are available 24/7 and is currently free. Go to eRail Updates to register for the service. You register your details and tailor your requirements to the times and lines you travel on the QR network. You are then alerted in accordance with the entered information.

Hopefully this will appease disgruntled rail commuters in Queensland and convince a few more people to leave their cars at home. However, the fact that the eRail Updates service is on offer suggests QR acknowledge that they don’t provide the level of service their customers desire. A better solution would be to provide a reliable and timely rail service.

Source: QR via

KTM gets conceptual

KTM in partnership with the FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft have developed a number of concept vehicles ranging from a four wheel off-roader to a hydrofoil boat. My favourite is the oddly named sr 85 deuce, a light weight electric car that makes an Ariel Atom look positively obese.

KTM sr 85 deuce concept

FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft: KTM sr 85 deuce concept

You can view all six concepts here.

Has the time come for high speed trains in Australia?

Having had a very positive experience using the Inter City Express (ICE) trains to travel around Germany I am a supporter of the service high speed trains provide for the public. It is fast, convenient, safe and cost effective. When powered by renewable electricity high speed trains also have a very low environmental impact. All things being equal I’d always take the train if I had a choice of flying or a high speed train in Australia. Air travel cannot compete with the convenience of boarding a train in one city centre and alighting in another to be greeted with a myriad of other public transport options to quickly get you to your destination.

German Inter City Express train

BusinessWeek: German Inter City Express train

The Very Fast Train consortium first proposed a high speed rail link between Melbourne and Sydney in the late 1980’s. The track was to go via Canberra and East Gippsland and cost around $5 billion. Journey times were to be 1 hour from Sydney to Canberra and 2 hours from Canberra to Melbourne. The proposal ended when the Federal Government did not agree to the tax provisions put forward by the proponents.

The Speedrail consortium subsequently proposed a high speed rail link between Sydney and Canberra. The consortium saw this as the first stage of a possible Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane network. However, this proposal stopped in 2000 when the then Federal Government and the Speedrail consortium could not agree on the level of government financial support required for the project.

On the back of rising oil prices (since subsided) and a greater emphasis on sustainable mobility the Canberra Business Council (CBC) has attempted to reopen the debate on high speed trains with a submission to the Infrastructure Australia agenda. The CBC submission uses the following key points to highlight the benefits of an East Coast high speed train network:

  • Improvements in technology, competitiveness and supply over the past decade.
  • Travel demand on the East Coast. The Melbourne – Sydney air route is the fourth busiest in the world and Sydney-Brisbane is ranks seventh in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Increased economic standard of living for Australians.
  • Use for freight. High speed freight trains are in use in France and soon to expand across Europe.
  • Environmental sustainability and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Energy efficiency.
  • Better social outcomes, quality of life, and reduced social disadvantage for regional centres on the rail line.

To put this into perspective, countries which are extending their existing high speed train networks include Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. New high speed train networks are under construction or being planned in The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Vietnam, China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Argentina and the USA (in California).

High Speed Rail for Australia, also by the CBC, highlights why Australia should look again at high speed rail. While none of the high speed rail projects listed above match the distances required in for a Melbourne – Brisbane line the technology is readily available and I’m sure Australians would use the service extensively once they understood the capabilities and convenience such a service offers. Unfortunately, history tells us that a project of this magnitude cannot succeed unless the Federal Government has the political will to make it happen.

The establishment of Infrastructure Australia by the current government may give high speed trains a fighting chance. One of the primary functions of Infrastructure Australia is to advise governments, investors and owners of infrastructure on Australia’s current and future needs and priorities relating to nationally significant infrastructure. The above submission by CBC was sent to Infrastructure Australia for evaluation and possible inclusion on the National Infrastructure Priority List. The first of these lists should be handed to the Council of Australian Governments in March 2009.

Source: Net Traveller

Hobart to get improved cycling network

The Tasmanian State Government is providing $415,000 to co-fund five cycleway projects which will form part of the Hobart Regional Arterial Bicycle Network. Local Councils will provide the remaining funding.

Construction has begun at the ‘Cadbury Link’ cycleway in Claremont, and work will begin early in the New Year on cycleways along the Bridgewater Foreshore, Victoria Esplanade in Bellerive and on-road cycleways along Campbell Street and Argyle Street in Hobart’s CBD.

The cycling network improvements are aimed at providing alternative transport options for Tasmanians and visitors to Hobart while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the fitness and health of the population.

Cycleway Projects

Cadbury Link – will extend the existing Intercity Cycleway, which extends for 15.6 km between Hobart’s waterfront at Sullivans Cove to Box Hill Road in Claremont. The extension will improve access to Claremont Primary School, Claremont recreational and sporting facilities adjacent to Cadbury and provide employees at Cadbury opportunities to cycle to and from work. Additionally the cycleway will also provide an alternative tourism route to the Cadbury factory.

Bellerive Bluff Coastal Link – the new cycleway is proposed to run along Victoria Esplanade, from Gunning Street to Queen Street in Bellerive. The path will link the historic village of Bellerive with its ferry terminal providing access to Hobart and with the recreational facilities of Bellerive Oval and beach and the suburbs beyond.

Argyle Street / Campbell Street On-Road Bicycle Lane – the on-road bicycle lane starts from Federal Street and heads towards the city until it reaches Burnett Street; here the cycleway splits, one route continues along Argyle Street, the other follows along Burnett Street and then turns into Campbell Street. Both cycle way routes go as far as Brisbane Street. The cycle path will improve bicycle access to and within the Hobart CBD without introducing significant disruption to existing users.

Bridgewater Foreshore Link – a multi-use gravel track along a significant amount of the the Brighton foreshore starting from Gunn Street, heading South East along the coast, around Green Point and up as far as the Jordan River Bridge.

Bonnet Hill Cycle Planning – feasibility study.

Maps of existing and future cycling routes are in the Hobart Regional Arterial Bicycle Network.

South Australia boosts research into algal biodiesel

Research into the production of biodiesel from algae in South Australia has been boosted by the granting of $1.2 million to Flinders University and South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) from the Premier’s Science and Research Fund. The grant is being matched by Sancon Resources Recovery, the SARDI and Flinders University to total a $4 million investment. The goal is to develop a proof-of-concept facility to explore production of algal biodiesel feedstock and high value co-products.

SARDI will lead the development of the algae production system while Flinders University will focus on the production of high value co-products from the biomass after the oil for biodiesel has been extracted. This process is similar to the petrochemical industry where petroleum fuels (the main product) and high value petroleum based chemicals all result from the one refining process. For this reason both SARDI and Flinders University are referring to their model as a bio-refinery.

The proof-of-concept will include a pond facility on Torrens Island that will utilise nutrient rich saline water from the Port River estuary, carbon dioxide from adjacent power plants and solar energy to produce the algae. In the ponds will grow an algal strain that SARDI will develop from their existing collection of native strains that show high oil production potential. SARDI also have the considerable task of optimising the algal production systems, reducing production costs, ensuring scalability and developing harvesting and extraction technologies.

No information has been provided on the intended use of the technology by Sancon Resources Recovery but given they specialise in waste reprocessing it appears likely they are interested in monetising high nutrient waste streams.