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Jonathon Thwaites' home biodiesel equipment - see how to set up



The University of Western Australia, Alternative Technology Association

Course No. 36, Sunday July 3rd, 9 am to 2 pm, Brisbane

Course No. 37, Saturday July 30th, 9 am to 2 pm, Sydney

Course No. 38, Sunday  July 24th, 9 am to 2 pm, Melbourne

Course No. 39, Sunday August 21th, 9 am to 2 pm, Darwin

Course No. 40, Saturday August 27th, 9 am to 2 pm, Adelaide

9:00 - 10:00      Biofuels and Biodiesel introduction
10:00 - 10:30     Biodiesel demonstration, making a 2 litre batch in class
10:30 - 11:00    Morning tea and discussion
11:00 - 11:30    Theory on biodiesel chemistry, testing
11:30 - 12:00    Finish biodiesel lab
12:00 - 1:00      Legal aspects, the future of biofuels, conclusion etc

Contact:  Jonathon Thwaites, University of WA,  0419 924 355  or (08) 6488 7932


If you wish to book in please email me with your postal address and the course you want to attend and I will send information to you.

Web: http://www.sustainability.fm.uwa.edu.au

Fee:  $70 + $7 GST non-commercial, $100 + $10 GST commercial payable to:

  • The University of Western Australia, ABN 37 882 817 280,
  • Account: BU 02030  PG 10504028


  • Jonathon Thwaites
  • Safety and Health M350
  • University of Western Australia
  • Crawley WA 6009

Workshops run so far


Phillip Calais (PC)                                 Biodiesel fuel

Anthony Clarke (TC)                           Waste vegetable oil fuel and engine modifications

Jonathon Thwaites (JT)                      Biodiesel fuel

 Sunraysier TAFE press release 

Biodiesel lab 

Biodiesel outside

Biodiesel class

Download article on the failure of government policy to make a cleaner renewable fuel available.

Biodiesel good news stories:

What is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from vegetable oil (new or used) or animal fat (saturated oils/fat). It is an environmentally friendly replacement for, or additive to, diesel fuel. Some of the advantages are:

No major engine modifications are needed to use biodiesel.
Does not require special storage or fuel dispensing facilities.
Reduced harmful exhaust emissions, almost no sulphur emission.
Reduced hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, aromatics and particulates emissions.
Better engine lubrication than low-sulphur diesel fuel.
Has better power rating than conventional diesel is a better fuel.
Excellent biodegradability characteristics, low toxicity and high flashpoint.
Biodiesel is renewable. Carbon is recycled through plantations back into oil.
Can be made easily and safely with small (backyard) and large scale equipment.

Renewable fuels like biodiesel are a much more sustainable source of fuel and have the potential to greatly reduce our reliance on expensive imported oil, leading to the creation of local jobs and the improvement in trade deficit.  Biodiesel offers the potential to create a whole new industry, locally owned and run, and employ thousands of farmers and related industries in WA. It may even offer some benefit with regard to salinity problems.

Biodiesel some information on testing and problems?

Notes on testing and problems people make experience with it.

Warranties information

Warranties but in German. In Australia almost no engines are warranted for biodiesel - that's because the Aust Govt is so progressive with regard to environment.

Hydrogen storage medium:

Currently in Perth the most emissions intensive fuel in terms of life cycle. Yep those green buses in Perth are the worst vehicles in town for emissions. The ultra pure hydrogen is very energy intensive to make and is made from oil. The fuel cells being developed by companies like Ford and GM use oil for their source of readily available hydrogen. Hydrogen as a technology is not available now (maybe 20 years away - what were they saying about global warming - how long have we got to make the changes?) and will require very complex and expensive technology, probably using rare metals etc. It will be owned by large corporations and does not fit a sustainable model of connecting people to the effects of the resources they use - it will not be locally based.

Ethanol fuels:

Ethanol costs roughly 2 x as much as biodiesel to produce per Joule of energy. Ethanol production in the mid west of USA from corn has a net negative energy output. It uses more energy to make it than is available in the fuel (it is heavily subsidised, requires large capital intensive processes to manufacture and so can be owned and controlled by large corporations).

Compare a modern petrol hybrid car with a modern European common rail diesel 

The diesel:

  • Uses less fuel per km (20 to 25 km/l compared to 17 to 20 km/l for hybrid of the same size)
  • Has lower emissions
  • Is lighter
  • Is simpler
  • Has more on road power
  • Is cheaper to build
  • Is cheaper to run
  • Does not have batteries that wear out in 7 years and cost $8,000 to replace
  • Does not have a battery bank that with a petrol tank near by is a serious explosion hazard 

But with the hybrid you will be captured by this large corporate technology.

Comparison of fuel production costs per unit of energy

Biodiesel ethanol comparison

Food or Fuel debate

A biofuels industry can work - it depends on how it is managed - its local cultural, environment and economic environment.

For example broad acre farming in Western Australia :

1 hectare of land will produce approx. 1 ton of canola (there are better crops to grow). 1 ton of canola will produce approx 500 litres of oil which will make 500 litres of biodiesel.

A 20,000 hectare broad acre farm in the WA wheat belt will use approximately 20,000 litre of diesel.

So it takes 2/1000 th of the farm area (40 hectares) to grow the fuel to run the farm.

Noting that Modern broad acre farming tractors and headers etc are of the order of 1 M Watt machines that run exclusively on diesel.

Now if we look to the future when diesel may become very scarce or expensive (really the same thing) what options do we have for growing this food.

Petrol - No - if no diesel no petrol either.

Ethanol - No - usually uses more fuel to make than is produced - something funny about massive US subsidies. More than twice as expensive to make as biodiesel.

Hydrogen - No - very inefficient, expensive and probably never a competitor in the transport sector because so many other options are so much better, efficiency and environmentally wise

Batteries - No - not likely - technology is not there

Power plug to grid - No -would need to upgrade whole grid to get capacity out of it - very expensive

Horse and plough - No - farmers 100 years ago allocated 25% (not 0.2%) of their land for horses, also ploughing 20,000 hectares with a horse might take a bit long

Biodiesel - YES - in fact there are no other options available and none even remotely on the horizon.

So if diesel becomes scarce the debate is not "Food or Fuel" - it is "Food and Fuel or simply starve" in Australian broad acre farming sector.

So we need a biodiesel industry in Australia - it needs time to develop and mature and if people in various political parties refuse to see sense then they are directly contributing to the starvation of possibly millions of people for no good reason.

Big general, global solutions never did exist - they were and still are a fiction for big corporations that like to operate globally - usually in third world countries and to their detriment. All the solutions for the future will be niched and optimised to the local cultural, environmental and economic environment.

Biodiesel is currently in commercial production in many countries in the world including the USA, Germany, Italy, France and the Czech Republic.

70% of all new cars sold in France in 2006 were diesel and similar figures hold for Europe this is because they are the most efficient and readily available vehicles on the market.

Biodiesel is clearly the most effective renewable fuel. If produced on a regional basis by local communities it can bring people back in touch with the effects of the resources they use. If the Howard model for biodiesel manufacture in Australia is allowed to progress the industry will be owned by large oil. Corporate farming will follow, with large monocultures and destruction of local communities. Farmers will become little more then labourers for US, Chinese and European oil, finance companies - is this

Howard's and Rudd's legacy?

Why are ethanol and hydrogen being pushed so hard - they are clearly inferior fuels in terms of sustainability, efficiency, accessibility? There are few clear answers to this, but it seems clear that they are complex, expensive and will capture the market - they can only be made by large global corporations. Biodiesel and diesel engines can be made anywhere, on any scale and this technology is not only the most efficient but the best fit we have for the sustainability model and community ownership.

The Australian Government appears to be pushing to give this new industry to the oil companies. The oil companies appear to have successfully lobbied the Federal Government to hinder the progress of this industry in Australia.

Biodiesel Reviews

Sweden has announced that by 2020 it will no longer be using fossil fuels, it has roughly half the population of Australia.

The 2006 the fuel excise (simplification) bill has made regionalised production of biodiesel very much less attractive. Infrastructure for production is being push into the capital cities as large capital intensive projects as usual. These projects will be, and are being bought up by large oil who will, it seems, own most of this new industry unless we work to turn around this terrible legislation.





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