Biofuels, a renewable source of energy from waste, have been around for two centuries, but an environmentally conscious shift from the transport sector is driving a resurgence.
The Premier of Queensland and Minister for the Arts have officially opened Australia’s first biofuels pilot plant in Gladstone.
The $18 million Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant (NOABPP) was opened just 14 months after the project was announced by the Premier.
The NOABPP is a joint venture between Southern Oil and J.J. Richards & Sons, on the site of their Northern Oil Refinery, and brings together five technologies from around the world to produce biocrude and renewable fuels from waste.
Southern Oil Managing Director Tim Rose said that, together with a $5.3 million biocrude and biofuel laboratory which opened on site last December, the NOABPP was a game changer for Queensland and would be a significant economic and employment contributor to the region.
“Over the next three years, this pilot plant aims to produce one million litres of fuel for use in field trials by the US navy as part of its Great Green Fleet initiative, by the Australian Defence Force for the navy, by Australian heavy road transport operators, and for the Australian agricultural and aviation sectors,” Mr Rose said.
“But we don’t intend to stop there; this is the next step towards a $150 million, commercial-scale biofuels plant that will produce in excess of 200 million litres of advanced biofuel annually – a project that has the potential to create hundreds of jobs and new industries across regional Australia.”
Mr Rose said that the pilot plant would trial and process a wide range of “waste” products to covert into renewable fuels over coming months.
“The rubber is literally hitting the road in Gladstone with used mining and passenger tyres some of the first waste streams to be trailed,” he said.
Other waste streams to be tested include plastics, wood waste, Prickly Acacia, sugar cane trash and bagasse, urban and a variety of agricultural green waste including macadamia shells.
AgForce Queensland CEO Charles Burke said he strongly supported the opportunities the biofuels pilot plant may provide for primary producers.
“I am excited at the prospects the agricultural sector may have as an important contributor in the supply chain, turning waste into a biocrude,” Mr Burke said.
“Using everyday waste from normal agricultural production and value adding it as a renewable feedstock will potentially allow a secondary income stream for regional Queensland which is great for primary producers and great for the state.
“We are also very pleased to see that Prickly Acacia, a declared pest of national significance, is a potential feedstock for the biofuels industry.”
Independent reviews suggest that the agricultural sector might become the single largest source of waste feedstock for the Queensland renewable fuels industry.