Power outages in the Western Cape, coupled with war in the Middle East, once again made everyone aware that the supply and sustainability of energy resources are of cardinal importance.

The uncertainty about the availability of energy resources is often accompanied by concomitant price increases, thereby causing an increase in the operational costs of wine cellars. This in turn results in reduced profit margins for the cellars, or higher wine prices for the consumer. It follows, therefore, that alternative energy resources, regardless of their nature, should receive ongoing attention. It is encouraging to note the installation of bio-ethanol plants in South Africa aimed at addressing the energy dilemma.

While natural disasters and international conflict may impact rapidly on the availability and prices of oil and fuel, regulatory measures to prevent air pollution are increasingly being implemented. Any source of energy that may result in global warming is also subject to modification. The production of wheat-based ethanol is on the increase in the USA and projections are that it will replace 4% of the daily US oil consumption by 2012. What is more, there is a world-wide demand for more environmentally friendly practices and the adoption of sustainable practices. As a result, alternative fuels such as biodiesel and PuriNOX are receiving more and more attention.

Alternative fuels are usually defined as fuels that are not derived from petroleum and therefore include energy resources such as electricity, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, biodiesel and natural gas. Combinations of these alternative fuels and petroleum products may also be used, however.

Technically speaking biodiesel is a fuel deriving from vegetable oils or animal fats. Sources may be waste cooking oil from restaurants or oil from commonly cultivated crops. Although soya beans are the most common source in the USA, mustard, sunflower, canola, algae and safflower may also be used. In its pure form biodiesel is a non-toxic, biodegradable fuel that ignites at a higher temperature than diesel, making it much safer than petroleum fuels. Biodiesel may be combined with petroleum diesel in different ratios and in terms of power output, consumption and torque it is practically equivalent to ordinary petroleum diesel.

From a pollution point of view biodiesel reduces emissions of sulphur, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The exhaust fumes are visually cleaner and smell better with flavours similar to potato chips or popcorn. It may be stored or handled in the same way as ordinary diesel, but has to be used within 6 months. In the USA vehicle fleets, school buses and government vehicles are using it and the biggest limiting factor is availability. Farm tractors and cellar equipment may also use it as fuel.

PuriNOX is a diesel fuel that offers more effective combustion so that less smoke is formed and has the same characteristics as normal diesel regarding toxicity, lubrication and corrosion. It reduces the emission of nitrogen oxides and particular matter. It has long been known that the addition of water to diesel fuel promotes combustion in that a finer, more even spray pattern is obtained. Although water and diesel do not mix naturally, the developers have overcome this problem. The use of PuriNOX also prolongs the intervals between oil changes and the overall lifespan of the machine. PuriNOX may be stored for up to a year and may be mixed with normal diesel within certain parameters, or they may be alternated with each other.

In the midwest of the USA biodiesel is more readily available following the availability of crops such as soya beans, safflower, sunflowers and canola. Some producers therefore cultivate these crops to supply their own fuel demands.

Reference:

Rieger, T. 2006. Alternative Fuels for Vineyard and Winery Vehicles. Vineyard & Winery Management Mar/Apr 2006: 63 – 71.

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