An enginethatsoothesDief’ssting

I vividlyremember the sense of impoverishment, the sting of lostpride, I feltwhen Prime Minister John Diefenbaker scrapped the Avro Arrow almost 41 yearsago. Powered by twoOrenda jet engines, the Arrow wasgoing to be the world’sfastest and mostadvancedfighter-interceptor.

Diefenbaker alsoordered the destruction of the two Arrow prototypes thathad been built, and the eradication of all plans.  A. V. Roe of Canada, the companythatbuilt the Arrow, responded by firing 14,000 employees. The Canadian aircraftindustrywasleft in a shambles; Canadian engineers and scientistswhohadlaboured on the Arrow left to work in the United States; and Canada reneweditsdependence on the United States for fighteraircraft.

So itwaswithvery mixed feelings that I entered the Mississauga plant of Orenda Aerospace a couple of weeksago. Orendaisnow an operating division of Magellan Aerospace Corp., the thirdlargestaerospacecompanywithheadquarters in Canada.

I wasthere to learn about Orenda’s new turbine enginethatwillrun on bio-fuel — oil made fromforest and agricultural waste. Orendasellselectricity-generatingequipment, and it plans to offer the turbine as part of its package.


« We’re the first company in the world to show wecanrun a full-scaleenginelikethis on 100-per-cent bio-fuel,’’ says Raj Thamburaj, director of Orenda’sadvancedmaterials and energysystems.


The environmentalbenefitsfrom the enginecouldbeenormous in dealingwithforest and agricultural wastes, becauseitcandisplace the use of fossil fuels to generateelectricity, therebysaving a non-renewableresource, and itcanprevent the doubling of carbondioxide (CO2) emissions, the principal source of global warming.


In the forest and agricultural industries, wastegenerates CO2 whenitisleft on the ground to rot (as itis in the lumberingindustry in many parts of Canada), or whenitisburned in open fields (as is the case in much of the Third World). Whenthese industries use fossil fuels to generateelectricity, theycreate a second source of CO2.


By burning the waste to createelectricity, the Orenda turbine willeliminate the second source of CO2.


The turbine couldalso help prevent out-of-control fires, such as the onesthatdevastatedIndonesianrainforeststwoyearsago. It was the burning of sugar cane wastes in open fieldsthatignited the rainforests.


Bio-fuels are created in wayssimilar to refiningfossil fuels. Both are hydrocarbons; bothneed to undergo changes to theirmolecular structure in order to makethem usable fuels.


But bio-fuels are corrosive. Theyalsocontain a higherlevel of particulatesthatcanclogengines, and can cause incomplete combustion. Consequently, Orendahad to come up with a new kind of turbine thatcouldoperate on thiskind of fuel.


Raj Thamburajis sure that the company has donethat. On Wednesday, (DOUG: Correct — Dec. 8) itbegan a month of final tests thatwillready the turbine for market. Thamburajexpects the first sale to befinalized in the second quarter of 2000, and the world’s first, bio-fuelledelectricity-generating plant to be up and running by the third quarter of 2001.


It willcost about $3 million for a plant thatwillgenerate 2.5 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 5,000 average Canadian homes. It willalsocost about $4.5 million to acquire a bio-fuel processing plant, from one of the threemanufacturersthatalreadyexist in Canada, to turnwasteinto fuel.


The total cost of the electricityproducedwillbe about 35 cents per kilowatt hour,  about four times the price of conventionalelectricity. But, saysThamburaj, in remote areas, where transportation costs for fossil fuels are high, it’llbe a bargain.


« We’reenthusiastic. We’regoing to hit the big time withthis in the renewableenergy business,’’ hesays.


I hopeso. I’vediscoveredthat national pridecansitverycomfortably on a bio-fuelled turbine — more comfortably, in fact, than on a warplane.

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