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Australian green fuel biorefinery on horizon

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Australia’s first ‘biorefinery’ capable of producing renewable diesel and jet fuels from plant material could become a reality in Queensland with support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). ARENA is providing AUS$2.4 million funding support for Southern Oil Refining (SOR) to develop and construct a ‘state of the art’ biocrude and biofuel laboratory in Yarwun, near Gladstone in QLD. The project will inform the feasibility and design of a proposed commercial scale biorefinery.

ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said there was clear potential for biofuel production and refining in Australia. “Our agricultural industries have an abundance of plant waste that can be ideal biocrude feedstock and there are several potential markets for selling green fuels including aviation, shipping and defence. ARENA has previously supported Australian companies such as Muradel and Licella to develop innovative technologies for producing biocrude, but, there is currently no way of refining this into large quantities of useable biofuels.”

Frischknecht continued, “A new biorefinery would be the first step in providing the missing link in the development of an Australian biofuels industry.” Mr Frischknecht said SOR has struck in-principle agreements with Muradel and Licella for the supply of biocrude for refining, demonstrating how ARENA supported companies can work together towards achieving commercial outcomes.

He said the economic opportunities could be significant. “The US Navy has a 50% target for alternative energy sources by 2020 and the Royal Australian Navy has signed an agreement to explore using more environmentally friendly fuels, significantly increasing demand for green fuels” Frischkencht said.

“Major Australian airlines are also considering these fuels to meet industry agreed emission reduction targets, with Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia recently announcing a partnership to investigate options for locally produced aviation biofuel.” Mr Frischknecht said the project would help to determine whether a compelling business case can be made for building a biorefinery capable of producing renewable diesel and jet fuels.

“The test laboratory ARENA is supporting will characterise biocrudes and biofuels and provide a blueprint for the refinery,” Frischknecht continued. “SOR will carry out testing and reporting to produce valuable knowledge for Australia’s bioenergy industry. New protocols for the conversion of biocrudes to drop-in fuels will also be established. This new knowledge and infrastructure is an important and necessary step towards attracting further investment in the biofuels supply chain in Australia.”

The AUS$5.3 million project is scheduled for completion in March 2019.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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