Ethanol targeted as fuel alternative


Mr Noel McMullan (left) managing director of Maxol, Dr Dennis Schuetzie, director, research and technology, Ford Asia Pacific, Mr Max McMullan and Mr Eddie Nolan, chairman and managing director of Ford Ireland at the announcement of the research project into the use of alternative fuel sources.

Details of the co-operative research project were announced yesterday by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, at Dublin Castle. It is being backed by one of the world's leading car companies, Ford, and Ireland's largest wholly-owned oil and fuel distributors, Maxol and CB Biofuels.

The Irish company, with a design by its chief executive Dr Christopher McCormack, has developed a fermentation-based process for producing ethanol from waste vegetable matter (biomass). Being largely agriculture-based, the Republic has a ready supply of waste biomass. The University of California-Riverside and Energy Resource Institute of California will test the DiGenter process and optimize its operation with a view to it being used in Ireland, the US, Chile and Thailand. A pilot ethanol plant is due to be built in Ireland within 18 months.

Some 90 per cent of alternatively fuelled vehicles in North America have been built by Ford, with one design capable of using mixtures of gasoline and ethanol attracting a lot of attention. Despite little cost associated with changing fuel use in standard cars, lack of cost-competitive ethanol fuel production facilities and fuelling stations is preventing their widespread use there is no discernible difference in car performance, according to Mr Dennis Schuetzle, director of research and technology with Ford Asia Pacific Operations.