Eco Innovator March 2012
Advanced Biofuels Study
The Federal Government has released the Advanced Biofuels Study: Strategic Directions for Australia, which outlines Australia's potential competitive advantages in building an advanced biofuels sector.
Advanced biofuels (ABF) offer the potential to build a significant and sustainable new industry that could increase national fuel security, assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate regional development, it says.
The opportunity exists to capitalize on "what might be an industry of significant future value and scale, providing a substantial proportion of Australia's future fuel requirements".
"If prices for non-renewable fuels continue to rise, and as the cost of ABF production falls, ABF could become cost competitive within a timeframe as close as 5-10 years. Once cost competitiveness is achieved, ABF are then likely to form a significant part of an alternative fuel solution.
"Given Australia's comparative advantages drawn from its history of expertise in agricultural sciences, its abundance of flat land and sunlight and a climate suitable for growing dedicated energy crops, Australia could become a global leader in ABF," says the study.
However, the development of a large scale ABF industry will require transformative land use change and significant investment.
The report identifies several feedstocks for priority and conversion technology, as they produce drop-in fuels, leverage Australia's comparative advantages and are scalable in the long term.
There are three main types of feedstocks: lignocellulose (LC), oil seeds, and algae.
LC biomass is available in agricultural, wood, forest and waste residues. Evidence suggests current quantities could support a significant industry although investments in harvesting, densification and transport infrastructure would be required.
New LC crops such as grasses and short rotation coppice may allow much higher volumes of production to be achieved, but would take time to develop to scale.
Oil based biomass is less available and less scalable, but could be developed relatively quickly, using oil seed species such as juncea, camelina and pongamia, and these can easily used with established technologies, says the study.
Algae offers high levels of scalability and reduced land use requirements.
"There is merit in pursuing multiple options," it says, but "only new LC crops and algae appear to offer long-term scale potential."
Industries that could benefit
are aviation, defence, freight road transport, mining and
A number of early stage challenges also need to be overcome to create a sustainable industry. This includes outlining the initial support role for Government and a platform that gives the private sector confidence to invest.
The Report recommends 20 specific actions for Government consideration.
The study was undertaken by LEK Consulting, commissioned by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, and funded through the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE). Its role is to inform the priorities of the Australian Biofuels Research Institute (ABRI) and the development of the Government's Alternative Transport Fuels Strategy.
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