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Biofuel buses: Transguard's regional case study

Transguard’s biofuel initiative — which has delivered savings and reduced the company’s carbon footprint ever since its inception — only grows in relevance in the context of the UAE’s evolving fuel sector.

ANALYSIS, PMV

Operating in any sector presents both challenges and opportunities to cut costs. When a large part of your business involves the management of a fleet of vehicles, alternatives to conventional fuel are worth considering.

Such is the case with Transguard Group’s CSR-driven biofuel initiative that is helping to cut costs while also significantly reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

“As transport is a major operational activity for Transguard’s business model, the biofuel initiative was seen as an opportunity for the company to make a significant reduction in its carbon footprint,” explains William Moroney, chief marketing officer, Transguard Group.

“Biofuel was a logical starting point given that the business operated a 150-strong fleet of diesel-fuelled buses at that point.”

Transguard’s biofuel project was initially conceived back in 2013. Looking to expand its CSR initiatives as part of its ISO environment certification, Transguard eyed a number of sustainable practices. These included introducing a green office environment with paperless operation, as well as oil recycling and food waste composting. However, it was the biofuel initiative that took off — saving the company $136,000 within 12 months of its inception.

Former intern and company employee, Rebecca Perkins, who was tasked with researching various possibilities, is credited with introducing the concept of the biofuel initiative. Finding favour with management, the logical starting point was the diesel-fuelled buses.

It has since been Highly Commended in the CSR Initiative of the Year category at the ‘Facilities Management Middle East Awards 2015’.

BLENDING BIOFUELS

Biofuel can be created in a variety of blends, depending on the ratio of biofuel to diesel in the admixture. The most commonly utilised variants include B2, B5, B20 and B100.

Transguard’s biofuel programme is being facilitated by Neutral Fuels and Lootah Biofuels, and has reduced its carbon footprint by approximately 3,000t since being introduced, as well as reducing the pollutant profile of its fleet.

“Biofuel has significant financial and environmental savings attached to using it. The advantage of biofuel is that it requires no vehicle modifications or special fuelling equipment — just pump and go,” explains Moroney.

As one of the primary sources of biofuels stems from waste vegetable oil discarded from restaurants, Transguard has also helped to recycle approximately 550,000 litres of cooking oil and grease from restaurants.

The variant of biodiesel fuel manufactured from vegetable oil, animal fats and recycled restaurant grease and oils is safe and biodegradable, producing less air pollutants than traditional petroleum-based diesel.

“Various studies have estimated that the use of one kilogramme of biodiesel leads to the reduction of around three kilogrammes of CO2, so the use of biodiesel results in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions — as well as a 65% to 90% reduction in particulate emissions and other harmful emissions compared with conventional diesel,” explains Moroney.

“At present, the business is running its 150-strong fleet of 56-seater and 34-seater buses using biofuel, but has not rolled out this initiative to its cash transit fleet as yet.”

TAKING THE NEXT STEP

While Transguard’s initiative is currently one of only a handful of companies in the GCC to incorporate the use of biofuel, such projects are quickly garnering interest, particularly in the UAE where the deregulation of fuel prices looks set to shake up the long-term market.

While in the short-term the deregulation put into effect on 1 August, 2015 by the country’s Ministry of Energy has driven down diesel prices, in the long-term it could well do the opposite — placing companies that are ahead of the curve in an advantageous position.

The other potential effect is an increase in the uptake of diesel-powered light commercial vehicles that at a later stage could be switched to biodiesel fuel. So even the current depression in conventional diesel prices could ultimately benefit the country’s biofuel industry.

Moroney notes: “Without the price differential between petrol and diesel you are likely to start seeing more diesel vehicles on the road. You struggle to find diesel versions of many vehicle models in the Middle East compared with Europe, but I would expect the big brand car dealerships have already placed their orders.”

The next few years could prove crucial for biofuel producers, as they seek out fresh clients. First and foremost, a concerted effort is needed to raise the number of refuelling stations for biodiesel, as widespread availability will raise the potential for adoption.

For Emirates Transguard, however, the deal is already done, and as part of its long-term transport asset plan, the firm is already looking into ways to convert its remaining fleet of 15-seater buses and cars over to diesel.

“With more confidence in biofuel product, Transguard plans to expand its use into the Cash in Transit Fleet, adding a further 150 vehicles using 65,000 litres of fuel every month into the biofuel programme,” beams Moroney.

“Transguard’s use of biofuel has already had key impacts on both the company and the Dubai community — with lower exhaust emissions, biodiesel is already helping to reduce pollution and improve health.”

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