The BOATHOUSE - Powerboat Engineering for a New Era!

Installations, engineering and development for superior fuels:

(Scroll down for more 'Fuel Facts'!)

ABPE is committed to a new custom installation, engineering, biofuel validation, education/training and market development platform. The evolving mission is leveraging on a passion for powerboat engineering, in harmony with biofuel technology. It will validate and demonstrate the superior quality, performance and value that existing and evolving biofuels provide. But indeed it is so much more!

Frustration with the attitude toward biofuels coming from both the sport and the powerboat industry, has inspired the need to analyse the issues and apply some considered initiatives to explain the facts, dispel the myths and prove that the inevitable biofuel revolution is perfectly at home on the ocean! The 'Boathouse' is where these concepts are evolving! 

It is where opportunities, initiatives and realities - now rapidly being accepted by the transport, shipping, aviation, corporate and financial sectors - can now be embraced by the leisure and performance marine sector. ABPE will turn the ideas into realities, achievements and compelling evidence, complimented by stunning imagery - capable of touching the hearts and minds of even the most cynical

The application of biofuel compatible power and the creation of properly engineered fuel systems is simply an evolutionary inevitability that was accepted in the automotive sector over 20 years ago. There is a big picture here. Vested interests have fed propaganda to the marine industry, dwelling on the 'danger' of a fact that has always applied – water gets into badly engineered and maintained marine fuel systems and causes problems regardless of the fuel used. The present generation of biofuels handle water differently but a ‘given’ amount of water is a problem whatever fuel is used. A significant issue, recognized by every marine mechanic, is the questionable standard of fuel system engineering accepted in the leisure marine sector!

The real tragedy – in a boating nation - is that the biofuel stigma in boating, transcends the ‘bad-news’ marine network and deters biofuel use in the auto sector. Propaganda works and despite the overwhelming evidence, the market still chooses toxic fuel over clean! 

Understanding the engineering, presents the opportunity to demonstrate and ‘evidence’ the superiorities and true values of biofuels. But stay tuned, because a revolution is happening right now! The petroleum industry is very aware that the internal combustion (ICE) engine will remain with us for decades to come, especially in such specialist applications as boats. They are equally conscious of the global expectation to replace fossil hydrocarbon fuels with clean alternatives. The petroleum industry is grasping the biofuel ‘nettle’ right now – and as they accept the inevitable, expect to see a revolution in biofuel development and marketing. For decades the transport energy source will be renewables and biofuels – even in the production of ‘green’ hydrogen. 

The time to accept change is right now, and here in The Boathouse, is where you will find the application information and guidance.    

Go Sister - Keep on Rockin!

Equal opportunity is a core value at ABPE and throughout this website. Offshore powerboat racing is a 'gender neutral' sport that has seen a grandmother, Betty Cook, become a two-time world champion. Recently more females have shown the grit and determination to be top level offshore drivers. Equally, more female engineers and mechanics are showing interest. However, also greatly appreciated is the value of the 'feminine' in marketing. The beach and boats are there for all and ABPE upholds and values gender and cultural equality in all its engagements, sporting and environmental challenges.  

For more ethanol information, scroll down to 'Fuel Facts' below.

Modern marine petrol/gasoline engine. Smaller capacity, higher compression, variable valve timing, direct injection, catalyst exhaust and ethanol compatible. Greater power density, lower emissions!

Injection pump, rail system and injectors on an E85 compatible, direct injection V6 marine engine. The system in the boat must be equally well designed and engineered.

Steyr-Motors marine diesels. Biofuel compatible from day one! Steyr unit injectors and variable injection timing, present performance, economy and Tier 3 emissions compliance.

'Fuel Facts' - Ethanol:

Are you sure you have your facts right?

Yes, I am a strong advocate for biofuels including ethanol in petrol/gasoline. The simple fact is, while ethanol isn’t perfect, it has, historically, always been light-years ahead of the alternatives.

There are a lot of things to consider – and yes, I have studied ethanol long and hard, so this will inevitably get boring. You can stop here and continue using the more expensive stuff if you like, but just hang in for the next line or two because you may be kidding yourself! Start with the fact that just about any petrol you buy at any fuel station may have some percentage of ethanol in it. The Australian fuel standard as of July 2003 lists the maximum additive content permitted in each grade of petrol. It states very clearly: ‘Ethanol, All grades, 10% volume by volume (maximum)’. Read it again, it states ‘All grades’, so you are paying the price for ‘premium’ to get pretty much the same ethanol content as you get in E10. The requirement for E10 is to state 'up to 10%'. A current analysed sample of E10 (April 2020) found only 5% ethanol content. Watch this space because ABPE will soon be conducting an analysis across the brands and grades. It can be expected that ‘premium’ grade (PULP) and basic unleaded (ULP) will also contain ethanol. I am talking about Australia but I know from my auto media colleague in the US it is a fact in the US – and no doubt much the same in the UK and Europe. There is good reason why, so keep reading.

Historically, ethanol was way ahead of petrol, in both chronological history and quality. Early spark-ignition engines were optimized to run on ethanol. The developing US oil industry, supported by massive corporate investment and the temperance movement, influenced governments to impose crippling taxes on alcohol. Eventually this included the ‘prohibition’. Oil marketing won the propaganda war and engines were thereafter optimized for gasoline. The problem came when aviation demanded more power. Higher compression ratios was a solution but then the tendency for pre-ignition/detonation/knock became a serious issue. Higher octane levels were needed and ethanol was the solution - but it couldn’t be patented – in fact you could brew it in your backyard and many did just that!

The oil industry desperately tried to find alternatives that could match ethanol, preferably based on a fossil hydrocarbon, exclusive and ‘patentable’. ‘Tetraethyl lead’ was the breakthrough – developed, manufactured and distributed by General Motors, DuPont and Standard Oil Company (now Exxon/Mobil) respectively. Needless to say, they made $Billions, while knowing full well that it was causing massive health problems. Note, they were doing this with the full knowledge and endorsement of governments worldwide. How could that happen? I'm sure you'll work that one out! 

The ‘lead in petrol’ era is now recognized as having had a substantial influence on the rapid escalation in neurological issues and many other diseases prevalent among the ‘baby-boomer’ generation and their descendants.

Why Ethanol?

Ethanol is a perfect ‘oxygenate’, its chemistry and high oxygen content raises the octane level of petrol – why do you think many motorsports stayed with alcohol fuels? Drag racers, Indy-cars, Australian Supercars and many other motorsports all use ethanol blends. The alternatives are lethal poisons – not just tetraethyl lead (still used in some avgas), but benzene, toluene, xylene and MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) - most of which are now strictly limited or banned.

But isn’t ethanol a poison? I guess you could say that but check out your local pub, they are drinking the stuff! Ethanol is exactly the same chemical composition as beverage alcohol, which is one reason why it has always been taxed so highly – the other reasons being to protect the oil companies from competition and earn billions of tax dollars to spend on wars defending oil supplies! (Note: actual fuel alcohol is 'denatured' - you wouldn't want to drink it!)

Oh, there is also that other little ‘environmental’ problem of course, but I won’t ask you to believe any of that right now.

For reference: during the 1950’s, several fuel companies in the UK, promoted ethanol as the magic fuel additive for better performance and economy. There were no dramatic warnings, no- one predicting disaster, or cars (or boats) breaking down everywhere. Then for some reason, those companies were all taken over and ethanol ‘evaporated’! In the late 1970’s Texaco promoted the virtues of ethanol in gasoline in the US, even employing Bob Hope in their TV ads – again, no furphy about ‘destroying’ engines, just another mysterious evaporation!

Australian Supercars run on E85

Drag Racing has always included classes for alcohol fuelled (Top-Fuel) cars. Some professional motorsports where fuel is restricted, the teams do development deals with oil companies. But many professional motorsports including Indy-Cars, NASCAR and Australian Supercars mandate the use of high level ethanol blends.

Larissa Rose, CEO of Queensland Renewable Fuels Association checks out a crop of sweet sorghum destined for biofuel production. The by-product, being high in protein, is used for cattle feed.

But biofuels have to be subsidised!

Have you ever wondered why so much of the Second World War was fought in North Africa? I did and again the answer is simple: it's no good having a massive military machine, if you have no fuel! North Africa was the path to Middle East oil. Today, Australia has only minimal oil refining capacity, we import over 90% of our fuel. We generally have about two weeks reserve. Imagine how easy it would be to paralyse Australia in the event of conflict.  

While lamenting wars, consider the fact that oil was a big factor in WW1, a massive factor in WW2 and the real reason behind virtually every Middle Eastern conflict since. Apart from massive investment assistance and obscene tax concessions, oil has cost billions of dollars in defense spending and countless innocent lives. So before you try the 'but biofuel has to be subsidised' argument, consider the fact that oil has been subsidised and patronised by political parties from day one. Again, you can figure it out!

For reference: To date, no deaths have been recorded defending biofuels!  

Apart from ‘fuel security’ and the cost of shipping oil from overseas – how long before a massive oil pollution disaster in our coastal waters occurs, and who will pay for the inevitable half-cock attempt to clean it up?  Shall we mention offshore oil rigs in our coastal waters?

What about the starving children?

OK, try the 'food crops versus fuel crops' argument. Sorry, even the World Bank tried that one as it related to US corn prices - and then had to publish a retraction! Little details like corn prices rising a few percentage points, while the crude oil price nearly doubled - leading to cost increases in everything from production to transport - seemed to evade them. Beyond the price issue it is well documented that there is far more food produced in the world than is needed - the issue is the political will to distribute it to where it’s needed, not the small percentage grown for fuel. In fact, in terms of health, and for obvious reasons, the sugar-based crop production – corn/maze and cane - is far better diverted to fuel rather than food! This applies particularly here in Australia, where we are subsidising sugar cane farmers to make us ill and obese. If the demand is created, they could be getting a good market price providing feedstock for biofuel production - while reducing fuel costs, reducing health care costs attributable to sugar and fossil fuel pollution, helping our economy and contributing to fuel security! Yeh, silly idea!

Beyond food crops, there is massive scope for growing 'no-conflict' crops like agave in the dry arid areas that support no other agriculture. There is also scope for biofuel derived from algae. In fact the evolving technology now makes almost any waste cellulosic material – and I emphasise ‘waste’ – useable as biofuel feedstock.

Far more significant now is the technology to use these waste cellulosic feedstocks to create '2nd generation' biofuels - and ultimately, bio-gasoline with a chemical composition almost identical to hydrocarbon gasoline. 

There is so much more to this story but a massive thing missing has been 'Political Will'. However, the encouraging thing now, is that industry, corporate interests, investment funds and both the air travel and shipping industries are ahead of venal governments in acknowledging the issues and making the transition to low-carbon fuels. The oil industry - to their credit - are now recognising the realities and engaging in partnerships and development programs, toward a biofuel future. 

Remember, change means opportunity and the leisure marine sector holds substantial influence over societies acceptance of biofuels in a boating nation. ABPE is on a mission to validate, educate and demonstrate the superiority of 'advanced' biofuels.