No single solution to bridge energy gap

AT the third annual Shell Mining and Transport Technology Forum held recently in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane in October, Shell Australia brought together global and local technical experts and engine manufacturers to discuss challenges facing the energy industry.
Increased demand for energy, as well as stricter government regulations for mining companies, has seen a corresponding increase in demand for alternative fuels in Australia.
Shell Australia sales and marketing general manager Craig James said it was important to provide alternative energy solutions because by 2050, the world’s population was expected to leap from its current 7 billion figure to 9 billion, leading to increased energy consumption.
He said there was no single solution to bridge this gap and that a mosaic of energy solutions – including biofuels – was required. “…We honestly believe that by working in partnership with our customers, asking open questions and trying innovative approaches, we can develop some really good solutions to the challenges ahead of us,” Mr James said.
Higher biodiesel blends – such as B20, which contains 20 per cent biofuels – are an alternative energy source that can offer mining companies a lower-emission, carbon tax-reduction solution.
Under current carbon pricing legislation biodiesel attracts no Government impost, which results in substantial savings for mining companies.
However, there are implications that miners need to consider before making the switch to biofuels, including how it interacts with water, its coldflow properties, oxidation issues and solvency.
“We recognise the impact we can have on making the biofuels chain more sustainable and we are seeking to have as much of an impact there as we possibly can, and [to] make sure that we can have an impact and say ‘ that’s a sustainable supply chain’,” Shell Australia Biofuels manager Catherine Ellis said.
Shell Australia Technical Mining team leader Darren Barwick said the biggest advantage in using biofuels compared to other innovative fuel solutions was its compatibility with current mining infrastructure.
“Shell has been dealing with biofuels for about 30 years; this isn’t anything new to us. When we talk [about] making sure we have a quality biofuels feedstock, we know…from experience – and we see it in the marketplace – all the issues that can occur with poor quality biofuels,” he said.
Shell was one of the first energy companies to invest in advanced biofuels from non-edible plants and crop waste, and it continues to invest in a range of related projects.
Its research teams in the UK, the US, the Netherlands and India partner with leading biotechnology companies and academic institutions as part of its work to develop advanced biofuels.

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