From fish 'n' chips to fuel

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 11:30 12/10/2012
Paul Quinn
Jared Nicoll
Renewable Oil owner Paul Quinn with some of the biofuel he makes and uses to power his two water taxis.

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An entrepreneurial Picton man is selling cooking oil to Marlborough businesses then taking it back, refining it, and using it to power his water taxis.

Arrow Water Taxis owner Paul Quinn buys bulk lots of canola oil and sells it to restaurants and hotels at a competitive price before retrieving the used oil and refining it into biofuel for his taxi business.

Mr Quinn purchased biofuel company Marlborough Renewable Oil in August and plans to create 70,000 litres of it per year to power his two water taxis.

The biofuel was eco-friendly, emitting 70 per cent less carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other particles that are carcinogenic pollutants. It takes 26 days to break down if spilled in the water compared to fossil fuel which takes 90, and it does not harm the fish either, he said.

He uses a transesterification process, the chemical conversion of fat and vegetable oil to biofuel, then refines it and removes any impurities to create the fuel.

The majority of Picton businesses used his canola oil, including Cortado Restaurant and Bar, the Mercure Picton hotel and the Nelson Ranger Fishing Company. He buys it from a bulk importing company.

"A lot of businesses are using cheap oil but we can sell them high-quality canola oil at a cheaper price because we're not looking to make a profit."

He wanted to make biofuel to gain better control over the costs of his business.

Tourism companies were forced to set their prices one year in advance with marketers, such as travel agents, but the fluctuating cost of fuel often left them with higher-than-predicted expenses and no way to quickly raise their prices.

"But with biofuel, we know what it's going to cost us two years in advance.

"It provides long-term certainty to the energy costs of your business."

It is also better quality, diesel has a cetane (combustion quality) rating of about 48 whereas biofuel is 57, he said. Mr Quinn did not intend to sell it to other businesses as the company makes just enough to power the taxis which was about 1000 litres per week, though more in summer. He hopes to process waste from companies such as King Salmon in the future.

"It's about helping high energy companies become more sustainable.

"We're also looking to set this up as a business model," he said.

He is in discussion with groups in Christchurch and Dunedin to set up small factories which would run as franchises. He will help them set up their supply, pitch the idea of cheap quality cooking oil to companies, and show the franchise owners how to retrieve and refine it.

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Mr Quinn previously ran Biodiesel NZ but sold the company to Solid Energy and was bound by a restraint of trade agreement until earlier this year.

He started looking at biofuel in 2004 and was impressed by farms in France and Germany that had set aside fields to grow seeds which would be turned into oil to power the farms.

Another good example was Christchurch meat processing company Verkerks, which takes its meat fat and turns it into a fuel for boilers.

- The Marlborough Express

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