Ethtec to develop biofuel project

Queensland-based company, Ethanol Technologies (Ethtec), has welcomed the announcement by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) of $11.9 million in funding for the company to complete the development and demonstration of its advanced biofuel production technology.

“The announcement by ARENA is a result of many years of dedicated work by the Ethtec technical team and assists our progress to commercialisation of the technology,” said Ethtec Chairman, Robert Carey.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA announced it had awarded the recoupable grant for the $48 million project, which will include a $30 million world-leading pilot plant in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales.

Ethtec is working to overcome the barriers to widespread use of ethanol as fuel. In a scalable pilot plant project, Ethtec is developing for commercialisation new technology for the production of ethanol and other high-value fermentation products from lignocellulosic materials such as crop stubbles, cotton gin trash, timber residues and sugar cane bagasse, avoiding the “fuel versus food” tension associated with the production of ethanol from corn or wheat starch.

“Internationally it is recognised that an ethanol fuel industry based on production from lignocellulosic materials results in substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport and industrial sectors while simultaneously assisting to provide solutions to rural unemployment and land degradation through enhancing the economics of crop and forest production,” said Ethtec Chief Scientist and Managing Director, Dr Russell Reeves.

“The project aims to demonstrate that value enhancement of existing biomass resources, reafforestation and synergistic treatment of land degradation are important wider benefits associated with ethanol production from lignocellulosic materials.

“Ethtec is highlighting the value-adding opportunities for owners of lignocellulosic materials, the development opportunities for regional and rural communities, the land remediation opportunities for mine operators and the cost-competitiveness of the ethanol produced as key elements of the
technology commercialisation program,” he said.

Ethtec has invested over $18.6 million in the project to date.

The ARENA funding of $11.9 million is being matched by Jiangsu Jintongling Fluid Machinery Technology Company Limited (JTL).

“JTL’s financial contribution will not only enable completion of the pilot plant but their overall involvement in the project will greatly assist in commercialising the Ethtec process both within Australia and internationally,” said Reeves. “Ethtec wishes to thank Mr Ning Ding of Billion Equity for coordinating the investment by JTL in the Ethtec project.”

Ethtec has partnered with Apace Research Limited, the University of Newcastle’s Institute for Energy and Resources and School of Environmental and Life Sciences as well as with Muswellbrook Shire Council to complete the project.

Additional funds and in-kind support from the project partners make up the funding for the new $30 million Hunter Pilot Biorefinery.

“Muswellbrook Shire Council’s financial and in-kind contributions enable the facility to be established in a region where the synergistic production linkages and compounded benefits from colocation of the energy, mining, agribusiness, forestry and land care sectors can be demonstrated,” said Reeves.

“The ARENA funding is pivotal to the total investment in the project by the private and public sectors. Ethtec wishes to thank ARENA for its invaluable assistance in achieving this outcome,” he said.

Dr Geoff Doherty, Ethtec’s Senior Research Biotechnologist, added: “To provide an economic buffer during periods of low oil prices, Ethtec is engineering flexibility into the process by enabling plant operators to choose to produce valuable co-products with ethanol.”

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