Interviews

Tissa Fernando, Managing Director of Flo-Dry Engineering

July 12, 2008

Roger: Hello again, my guest this week spent many years as a research engineer at the Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand, but is now Managing Director of Flo-Dry Engineering. Tissa Fernando, thanks for joining us.

Tissa: Thank you.

Roger: Now Tissa, what does Flo-Dry Engineering actually do?

Tissa: Flo-Dry Engineering produces systems for producing tallow, rendering plants they’re called, and we have supplied over fifty of these plants over the last 25 years.

Roger: And now you’re looking to use that tallow as a bio-fuel, is that right?

Tissa: Yes, we had a natural sort of evolution of adding value to one of the products that comes out of our rendering plants and that’s tallow. It’s not new; we’ve been working for many years on trying to see whether we can work the tallow to bio-diesel.

Roger: How do you take tallow from being a waste product in a meat processing plant to a viable fuel?

Tissa: First of all the tallow should be of a very good quality, which we are lucky – most plants do produce good quality tallow, and then you have to convert that tallow, which is saturated fat, into a more viscous product of bio-diesel and to do that we have to react it with methanol and then purify the bio-diesel.

Roger: Now I noticed there are some solids in this bio-fuel. Is that a problem?

Tissa: It’s not a problem. 100% bio-diesel by it’s nature has got some saturated fats which have high melting points, so in a room temperature like this in winter you would see that. But if you take 5% blend with mineral diesel, you don’t see anything at all because those particles that you see dissolve in diesel.

Roger: So why would you use a tallow-based bio-fuel over another bio-fuel, say ethanol?

Tissa: Ethanol can only be used in petrol engines, but most of the engines that create carbon emissions are trucks and they are diesel vehicles, and for diesel vehicles you need bio-diesels. And tallow bio-diesel, why would we use it? Because firstly it’s available in New Zealand; cost wise in terms of raw material it is cheap and we make very good quality bio-diesel, so why would we want to export it to make soap when we can pay more for that tallow to convert into bio-diesel.

Roger: So will this product be able to help the overall carbon balance of the meat industry?

Tissa: it does. This is one product that we can get a credit for in terms of the overall carbon balance. The agriculture industry has been reported to have very high carbon emissions about 50% of the total, and this product from the meat industry, this tallow, and whey from the dairy industry would offset that debit.

Roger: So how long before this product is available at the pump?

Tissa: Well the date given by the government is the 1st of October this year. There’s a bill that has to be passed, and if that goes through we believe that will be the date. A lot of companies are waiting to hear about the manager requirement before they invest in their plants.

Roger: It’s an exciting future. Tissa, thanks for joining us.

Tissa: Thanks very much.

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