ASHOIL Business Model Has Bigger Fish to Fry
Wednesday, 29th May 2013 at 11:27 am
Next time you are having a good old fashioned fry-up, spare a thought for the afterlife of your cooking oil.
That’s what Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation have done which resulted in the creation of a successful social enterprise converting used cooking oil into environmentally friendly biodiesel.
The Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation’s subsidiary ASHOIL, processes used cooking oil from the mining industry’s kitchens to produce biodiesel, which is re-used by mining companies, and also provides on-the-job training for young aborigines.
The production started in the small Western Australian community of Tom Price seven years ago and ASHOIL was formed as a subsidiary in 2010.
The social benefits of the enterprise are three-fold as ASHOIL continues to expand the project to become a strong player in the environmental and mining sectors.
Used cooking oil is collected from the surrounding Pilbara mining towns and the biodiesel plant produces about 10,000 litres of fuel each week which is then purchased by mining giant Rio Tinto, who use thousands of litres of the product in its drilling and blast operations.
Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation Enterprise Manager Stuart Gunzburg said the project evolved for a number of reasons- the cost of fuel in the Pilbara was extremely high, sometimes twice the price of metropolitan areas, and it provided an avenue for employment and training of indigenous community members.
So far, the program has provided training in biodiesel production for 60 individuals, many of whom have gone on to permanent employment in the local mines.
“We would like to employ indigenous people in our operations but once they go through the training, mining camps snap them up,” Gunzberg said.
Gunzberg said the biodiesel production meant less diesel had to be used by mining companies.
It also stopped cooking oil waste being dumped.
“You may think it is a bit of a waste [being used in explosives by the mining companies] but we are still off-setting the use of diesel,” he said.
The success of the social enterprise sees ASHOIL already planning to expand.
ASHOIL is currently trialing the growth of a plant called Miranga which can be used to produce biodiesel, to keep up with the demands.
ASHOIL is farming four hectares in the trial and is using clean water waste from the mines to irrigate.
Gunzburg said being able to use this water meant thousands of litres would not go to waste.
He said the water wasted by mining companies was more than the entire city of Perth’s yearly water use consumption.
“We are effectively using mine water waste to grow plants,” he said.
ASHOIL has made a funding application to help finance the construction of a larger facility.
Although amounts being produced at the factory are relatively small at present ASHOIL is a micro-model that could be duplicated in other places.
Gunzburg offers his list of why biodiesel production makes sense:
- It is simple to make and cheaper than petroleum diesel
- Non-toxic and environmentally friendly
- Used oil would otherwise go to waste
- One litre of used oil converts to one litre of biodiesel
- It can be used neat or blended in any ratio with petroleum diesel
- It has higher lubrication qualities than petroleum diesel and prolongs engine life
- AAC saves on fuel costs
The enterprise was shortlisted for the inaugural Social Enterprise Awards held in Melbourne last night.