Biofuels

Biofuels are produced from renewable materials such as plant and animal matter. They are usually blended with petrol and diesel to make biofuel blends.

Benefits of biofuels

Sustainably produced biofuels have many benefits for New Zealand. By using a renewable alternative to fossil fuels we can:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • improve air quality
  • decrease our dependence on imported oil.

Types of biofuels

Today’s biofuels usually come in the form of biodiesel (an alternative to diesel) and bioethanol (an alternative to petrol). Biofuels are normally blended with ordinary diesel or petrol.

Biodiesel

In New Zealand, biodiesel usually comes from tallow (a by-product of meat processing), or used cooking oil. When pure biodiesel is mixed with ordinary diesel, it makes a biodiesel blend - often referred to as B5, B7, B20, or other. These numbers relate to the percentage of biodiesel in the blend.

Bioethanol

Bioethanol blended petrol has been sold in New Zealand since 2007.  Bioethanol is produced as a by-product of the dairy industry. In the past, bioethanol has also been imported from Brazil (made from sugarcane). When bioethanol is mixed with ordinary petrol, it makes bioethanol-blended petrol - often referred to as E5 or E10. The number relates to the percentage of bioethanol in the blend.

Biofuels and fuel quality

As biofuels must meet government-regulated fuel specifications, you can be confident about their quality. It’s illegal to sell biodiesel or bioethanol blends that don’t meet these standards. We recommend that you buy blends from established fuel retailers only - so the same places you normally buy fuel.

Biofuels and vehicle compatibility

Biodiesel

All vehicles can use a 5% biodiesel blend without you having to modify any engine or fuel system. Some vehicle providers also authorise the use of 7% biodiesel (B7), and higher blends (such as B20) can be used for many large commercial vehicles like trucks and buses - as long as a few simple steps are followed. Check with your vehicle or engine manufacturer about the best level of blend for your vehicle.

Acceptance of the use of biodiesel fuels in vehicle and engine applications in New Zealand - EECA website

Peer review of report on acceptance of the use of biodiesel fuels in vehicle and engine applications in New Zealand - EECA website

Bioethanol

Most new and many older vehicles can use bioethanol-blended petrol. If you have any concerns about using a biofuel blend, check your vehicle’s handbook. Visit the Automobile Association (AA) website for a list of vehicles that can use bioethanol-blended petrol.

Biofuel and environmentally-friendly cars - AA website

Biodiesel blends

Before using a biodiesel blend:

  • check your fuel system - if it’s old or in poor condition, it may be worth flushing it first. A mechanic can easily do this for you.
  • change your fuel filter - because biodiesel blends can loosen dirt and carry it through to the fuel filter. If your fuel filter hasn't been changed recently, change it after the first few fills of biodiesel blend.

Bioethanol blends

Before using bioethanol-blended petrol:

  • check for excess water - at the bottom of the fuel tank. A mechanic can do this for you.
  • be sure to fill your tank on first use - to better absorb any existing water in your tank.
  • change your fuel filter - because bioethanol-blended petrol can loosen dirt and carry it through to the fuel filter, changing the filter will remove any debris caught.

Other biofuel uses

Bioethanol-blended petrol can be used in almost any petrol engine - from lawn mowers to generators. As with straight petrol, you should not leave it in the tank for longer than two months, as this risks the fuel becoming ‘wet’ from moisture absorbed from the air, which risks fuel degradation and corrosion. Bioethanol-blended petrol should not be used in marine or aviation applications unless special measures are taken. You can use biodiesel blends in almost any diesel engine - including earth moving equipment, tractors, generators or boats.

Biofuels and the environment

Biofuels vary in the way they’re produced, their impact on climate change, the environment and people. In order to provide New Zealanders with confidence in using sustainable biofuels, we have established a framework that allows producers and retailers to report on the environmental credentials of their products.

Sustainable biofuels information - EECA BUSINESS website