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  The Straits Times 15 May 06
Entrepreneur finds way to run truck on biodiesel and plans to start selling it next month
Meng Yew Choong mengyc@sph.com.sg

A LOCAL entrepreneur has come up with a way to run diesel-powered cars on biodiesel made out of used cooking oil, and plans to start selling it next month.

Mr Kom Mam Sun has run his Nissan truck for 18 months on biodiesel, an environmentally-friendly fuel. No modifications to the vehicle were necessary, he said, and his truck has passed the Land Transport Authority emissions test without a hitch.

In fact, he says, a few small contractors - those running lorries, dumpers, generators and construction site equipment - are already using the product.

Now, Mr Kom has built a plant at Tuas which can produce around 1,500 tonnes of biodiesel a month, and is ready to sell the fuel to customers interested in running 'cleaner' vehicles. The amount is enough to fill up over 30,000 small lorries.

Mr Kom's $600,000 plant in Tuas will be making the fuel out of 200 tonnes of raw material - used cooking oil from restaurants which he buys from collectors. His company Biofuel Research (www.biofuel.sg), will be the first in Singapore to mass produce biodiesel from used cooking oil, he said.

Biodiesel is emerging as an alternative fuel for diesel-powered vehicles, which then emit less toxins or pollutants that create smog. Global demand for this greener fuel is expected to touch 10.5 million tonnes in the next few years, as escalating oil prices fuel worldwide interest in alternative energy.

Mr Kom says his company's product is 'cleaner' than most other forms of biodiesel. The fuel, used extensively in the United States and Europe, is usually combined with diesel.

But Biofuel Research's product is not mixed with any mineral diesel, making it a totally sulphur-free product, and thus less polluting to the environment.

As for price, Mr Kom said that he is buying used oil at around 50 to 60 cents per litre, and plans to sells the finished product well below the current pump price for diesel, which is about $1.30 per litre, but declined to give more details.

So how does a National University of Singapore Business Administration graduate wind up producing fuel?

'I wanted to do something which was beneficial to the environment, and I saw this as a niche market which did not call for sophisticated technology or resources,' he said. So he taught himself how to make biodiesel based on guides on the Internet, and tinkered with glass columns, test-tubes and beakers in a tiny rented lot at the Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate for nearly two years before he came up with a usable product.

After selling off his three-room Housing Board flat in Holland Drive to top up his seed money of close to $300,000, the 32-year old father of two managed to rope in an independent investor, who also put in $300,000. The investment sum grew by another $300,000 after funding from Spring Singapore was added.

In the absence of large-scale trials, Mr Kom's five-year-old Nissan truck proved to be his best advertisement.

The National Environment Agency, which is in charge of promoting clean air and setting vehicular emissions standards, told The Straits Times that it has no objections to the use of biodiesel in the industry.

But when the more stringent Euro IV standards kick in later this year, the biodiesel must be certified to meet emission limits in all new diesel vehicles, it said.

Eco-friendly biofuel

ALCOHOL and biodiesel are the two main kinds of eco-friendly biofuel. Alcohol, chiefly in the form of ethanol, is produced by the fermentation of products containing carbohydrates, such as corn, potatoes, wood, waste paper, wheat, brewery waste and food wastes.

Ethanol is usually mixed with petrol when used in car engines.

Biodiesel is commonly made from used cooking oil or agricultural feedstock. It can be used in diesel engines in its pure form, or mixed with diesel.

Related articles on Singapore: green energy
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