The UK’s Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish), a cross-industry non-departmental public body (NDPB), has launched a project to develop biofuels for the commercial fishing industry.
The UK fishing industry has seen its fuel prices double in the last 24 months, which, along with the increasing pressure to find greener alternatives to conventional fuels, is an important impetus for the project.
The project brings together technical expertise in biodiesel technology from the Camborne School of Mines and in control electronics from Oxfordshire-based technology company, Regenatec. It is partly funded by the European Union through the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG), and Seafish will manage the project on behalf of the UK’s Defra.
This project will investigate two different approaches which offer distinct choices for fishermen. The project being run by Camborne will produce a form of biodiesel which can be used directly in existing engines. The other approach by Regenatec, is to make minor modifications to a marine engine to allow it to run on straight vegetable oil—the same oil you can use to fry fish and chips.
Straight vegetable oil is likely to prove cheaper per liter than biodiesel, but there are upfront costs involved in modifying the engine, so each solution will be attractive depending on typical fuel usage patterns of individual vessels.—Tom Rossiter, Technical Implementation Manager at Seafish
Marine diesel fuel contains higher sulfur content than land-based diesel fuel, resulting in substantial sulfur dioxide emissions at sea. These emissions lead to the formation of acid rain. Biofuel use would reduce those emissions by more than 99%.
In addition, marine engines are generally lower revving and more tolerant of different types of fuel than on-road engines. This tolerance should allow marine engines to run lower grade —and potentially less expensive—biofuels.
Testing will begin on two fishing boats in the next few months, with potential widespread commercial use by the end of 2007, assuming all goes according to plan.
Regenatec designs, develops and manufacturers technology that allows commercial diesel engines to operate from pure plant oils (PPOs) such as vegetable oil. The company is due to launch the technology for commercial road vehicles in April 2006.