Biofuels specifications and regulations
With the increased cost of fuels at the pump, some people are thinking about making their own biofuels from used cooking oil or other oils or fats, for their own use or selling it to other people.
While biofuel blends are excellent fuels when made according to specifications, biofuel blends which do not meet quality specifications can result in engine damage. EECA does not recommend making biofuels for your own use.
Biodiesel and bioethanol specifications
Biodiesel and bioethanol specifications are controlled Engine Fuel Specification Regulations (Ministry of Economic Development).
These regulations came into effect from 1 July 2008 and were updated 3 October 2011. This means that it is illegal to sell biodiesel that does not meet this specification.
As for all goods, any traders selling biofuels are subject to the following:
Biodiesel manufacturing regulations
Biodiesel itself is not a hazardous substance and so no approvals are required for it under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act administered by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). However, approvals will generally be required for making biodiesel as some of the chemicals used are hazardous, as is the process. Even the smallest scale operation will be subject to some HSNO controls because of the use of methanol. Basically, any process operation involving a highly flammable substance such as methanol is a very hazardous operation and should not be undertaken without the appropriate controls in place.
Under the HSNO regulations, hazardous atmosphere zone requirements would be triggered when quantities of methanol of over 5 litres are in use. The requirement to have approved storage facilities and to obtain a hazardous substances location test certificate would be required at 50 litres of methanol and above. The requirement to have trained, certified hazardous substances approved handlers would apply at above 250 litres of methanol.
Further details on HSNO requirements are available on the EPA website.
The handling and storage of biodiesel blends should follow the same requirements and procedures as for handling mineral diesel.
Contact your local and regional council to find out if you need any Resource Consent approvals for your facilities or for disposing of any wastewater, or discharges to air, from a biodiesel manufacturing process.
Electrical safety and legal compliance of biodiesel manufacturing plant
Some chemicals used to manufacture biodiesel are flammable and require the use of specialised electrical equipment to maintain safety in the presence of flammable materials.
Most electrical equipment in biodiesel manufacturing plant will require installation and inspection by appropriately qualified electrical workers. Such electrical equipment should be accompanied by documentation confirming its safety and suitability for use in New Zealand, and include safety instructions for its operation and maintenance. It is critical that these instructions are followed.
Likewise, naked flames must be avoided in the vicinity of biodiesel manufacturing plant.
For further information on electrical or gas safety, contact the Energy Safety Service on 0508 377 4636. You can also visit the Energy Safety website.
Vegetable oil conversion kits for vehicles
EECA does not recommend kits which convert your vehicle to run on vegetable oil. Overseas studies show that there is a risk of damage to your engine when using straight vegetable oil, including when the vehicle is converted.
For more information: visit the Engine Manufacturers website
Customs and excise
Biodiesel was included as a fuel in Schedule 3 of the Customs and Excise Act 1996 on 1 October 2008 and consequently areas where biodiesel is now manufactured are required to be licensed by Customs. Biodiesel is currently excise rated "Free" and is subject to the Petroleum and Engine Fuels Monitoring Levy (0.045 cents per litre).
Anyone making biodiesel must make an application to be granted a licence as a Customs controlled area.
For more information: visit the Customs website or call 0800 428 786
Ethanol manufacturing regulations
Anyone making ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol or bioethanol) to be used as a fuel must first make an application to be granted a licence as a Customs controlled area. Ethanol used as a fuel is excise-free provided an application is made to the Chief Executive of Customs and approval granted by him. Otherwise, ethanol attracts a substantial excise charge per litre of alcohol due to its potential use as a drinkable spirit. The exemption to the requirements to be a Customs controlled area for personal use of ethanol only extends to drinkable spirits, not to the use of ethanol as fuel.
Ethanol as a highly flammable substance would also be subject to controls under the HSNO regulations and electrical safety compliance.
Reports on sustainability and biofuel sources:
- Primary energy and greenhouse gas emissions from biodiesel made from NZ tallow (2006)
- Assessment of Bus Exhaust Emissions from Tallow Methyl Ester Biodiesel (2006)
- Biofuels Public Perceptions Research Study