Emily Smith, 18 November 2015

IT started as an innovative way to inspire students, but with big business continuing to come knocking for CQUniversity’s Biodiesel Plant, it could be on track for commercial success.

That’s what Biodiesel Plant co-ordinator Paul Kelly says, following a partnership struck in the last month between the university and Caltex, where Caltex offered sponsorship for fuel testing and developing blends from the plant.

“They’ve talked about getting a CQUniversity Caltex blend, and doing testing to get the Australian standard stamp of approval, ” Mr Kelly said.

“The support has just been phenomenal. I mean, what a great way to get young people inspired.”

The plant was first developed about five years ago, to give practical skills to high school students like Robert Walker, Jye Russell and Jalamara Towney, Year 12 students who have worked at the plant as part of their training for 18 months.

They said the experience has helped them determine their futures.

Jye said he wants to be a diesel fitter “becasue pulling stuff apart and putting it back together” is his favourite thing, while both Robert and Jalamara want to be boilermakers.

“I came here and tried welding and I think I’d like to be a boilermaker now,” Robert said.

The three Year 12 students are among hundreds who have gained industry experience from the facility.

“Industry wanted kids who were work-ready, who had been working on real machinery,” Mr Kelly said.

“This was just going to be a small unit to give them that experience.

“Now it’s like a $200,000 five tonne robot, thanks to all the donations and support we have had.”

Fat from the MECC and fish and chip shops was collected, to convert one litre of fat to one litre of fuel, which is currently all sent to Rockhampton where three PhD students study it for their thesis.

The plant is also working towards commercialisation, which would see it supply fuel to university vehicles, local charities and possibly a council truck.

By-products like bio-degradable cleaner, fertiliser and weed-cleaner were also produced.

“We have fairly substantial waste in this town and as well as recycling that waste, the fuel produces low carbon emissions,” Mr Kelly said.

“But at the end of the day I’m a teacher and this is about the training. The fact it might make money is just a bonus.”

Extracted in full from the Daily Mercury.