Australia’s first green-fuel biorefinery could soon become reality


The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will support the development of Australia’s first “biorefinery” capable of producing renewable diesel and jet fuels from plant material.

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ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the agency will provide $2.4 million funding support for Southern Oil Refining (SOR) to develop and construct a cutting edge biocrude and biofuel laboratory in Yarwun, near Gladstone.

He said the project will inform the feasibility and design of a proposed commercial scale biorefinery, which could deliver significant economic benefits for the country.

“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,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“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.”

He said SOR had in place 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.

“The United States Navy has a 50 per cent 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,” Mr Frischkencht added.

“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.”

According to Mr Frischknecht, the project will support the business case for building a biorefinery for producing renewable diesel and jet fuels.

“The test laboratory ARENA is supporting will characterise biocrudes and biofuels and provide a blueprint for the refinery,” he added.

“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 project, valued at $5.3 million, is scheduled for completion in March 2019.