Australia is one step closer to opening its first biorefinery dedicated to producing biojet fuels and renewable diesel. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $2.4 million in funding support for Southern Oil Refining to develop and construct a biocrude and biofuel laboratory Yarwun, near Gladstone in Queensland. The lab-scale project will have the ability to grow into a commercial-scale biorefinery. The $5.3 million project is scheduled for completion in March 2019.
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 defense.” Frischknecht continued, “ARENA has previously supported Australian companies like 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. A new biorefinery would be the first step in providing the missing link in the development of an Australian biofuels industry.”
Frischknecht said Southern Oil Refining 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 pointing out that the economic opportunities of the project could be significant.
“The United States Navy has a 50 percent 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,” said Frischkencht. “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.”
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. As part of the project, the lab will characterize ideal biocrudes and biofuels as the basis for creating the refinery blueprint as well as develop new protocols for the conversion of biocrudes to drop-in-fuels.