The importance of using alternative fuels

By Carolyn Jackson, Editor
Thursday, 22 November, 2007

On a recent visit to Australia, German engineer and world authority on the use of alternative fuels, Dirk Lechtenberg from MVW Lechtenberg & Partners, who specialises in the use of alternative fuels in the cement and lime industry, power plants and biomass power plants, spoke to Sustainability Matters about the importance of alternative fuels and the impact on Australia's relationship with Germany after Australia's refusal to sign Kyoto.

What services does MVW Lechtenberg & Partners provide?

DL: Lechtenberg & Partners specialise in the planning, construction and operation of production plants for secondary fuels and secondary fuels made from bio-mass like wood, straw and other specific wastes such as paper, plastic films and foils and plastics. Many types of production garbage from the textile industry, carpet industry, paper manufacturing, process plants, plastics industry etc come as pure, clean material mixtures. MVW Lechtenberg & Partners advises industry-businesses in the non-polluting utilisation of these wastes. We start by looking at the first steps of planning up to the acceptance, the optimising of the logistical handling, treatment and non-polluting utilisation of these materials as secondary fuel. Also, the heat-value-rich fraction of house garbage is prepared by corresponding technology for local waste disposers and their representatives.

Can you describe how alternative fuels can provide benefits?

DL: When you use coal it has a calorific value of around 28 MJ/kg and processed fuels have a calorific value of 22-24 MJ/kg. By using one tonne of alternative fuels in this quality you are saving the use of around 800 kg of coal. The use of alternative fuels save the use of fossil fuels and reduces waste being sent to landfill, therefore it is environmentally friendly. It also has the support of the UN and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in various projects. The CDM is an arrangement under the Kyoto Protocol allowing industrialised countries with a greenhouse gas reduction commitment (called Annex 1 countries) to invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries as an alternative to more expensive emission reductions in their own countries. The most important factor of a carbon project is it establishes that it would not have occurred without the additional incentive provided by emission reductions credits. The CDM allows net global greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced at a much lower global cost by financing emissions reduction projects in developing countries where costs are lower than in industrialised countries.

What sector of industry best utilises this method?

DL: The use of alternative fuel is beneficial to the coal and cement industries but in the end we would all win by using this method as it is a cost-effective substitution to using natural resources and it prevents pollution from waste. Put simply, it is sustainable waste management.

What is DIN EN 9002 and who uses it?

DL: If you buy coal, it always has the same quality and the same chemical quality, so in Europe we are developing fuels that meet the DIN EN standards, which means alternative fuels are a product and not just waste. The scheme, which is registered by the Exploration Directorate, has regulations for each country involved. When we started to use alternative fuels in Germany, almost 20 years ago, it was very difficult to get permission to use waste as a fuel. The authorities have installed a monitoring system and instructions for the analysers and for the sampling of alternative fuels and for the quality of these fuels. This system was developed over many years and is now a law in Germany. If you want to use alternative fuels, there are only certain types of waste you can use so it's important to have monitoring systems in place.

Currently in Australia there are discussions under way regarding an emissions trading scheme. What are your thoughts on that?

DL: Firstly, it is unbelievable that you did not sign Kyoto and to leave the waste sector out of the current proposals regarding emissions trading schemes is something I cannot understand. There are projects in India, Pakistan, China, Korea and all over the world that are working together with waste treatment companies and the cement industry to reduce landfill and to reduce the use of fossil fuels. This is a very simple and effective way to reduce CO2 emissions.

What is the long-term impact on Australia regarding trading with Europe?

DL: The long-term damage will be on the environment. Everybody has to do something to reduce CO2 emissions. I don't think it will have an impact on the relations between the German government and the Australian government or on German industry but Germany is looking to export new technologies to power plants, air pollution control solutions and recycling solutions. If your government does not sign the Kyoto Protocol then it will have an impact on the ability for Germany to trade these technologies with Australia.

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