World’s newest biofuels lab opens in Queensland

Australia’s first advanced green fuels laboratory has opened in regional Queensland with support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), allowing researchers to test biocrude locally for the first time.

According to the Queensland Government, ARENA has contributed $2.37 million towards Southern Oil’s advanced biofuels laboratory in Gladstone, which is set to significantly advance the green-fuel industry in Australia and also provide a boost to Queensland’s burgeoning reputation as a renewable energy leader.

ARENA CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said Australia boasted innovative biocrude development companies like Muradel and Licella, but until now the nation had no facility to help them test and refine their products.

“ARENA is committed to helping accelerate the shift of new solutions like biofuels toward commercialisation and the Southern Oil laboratory is an important step that will enable local biofuel projects,” he said.

“Australian researchers and developers from across the biofuels industry will now be able to conduct biocrude testing in Australia, rather than overseas, which fills a gap for the industry because it allows testing under local conditions and is faster and more cost effective.

“The testing will be able to determine the viability of refining different kinds of biocrude, which can be made from biomass such as regional agricultural waste, into usable fuel.”

Frischknecht said ARENA’s mission is to enable the uptake of more renewable energy sources by driving innovation and commercialisation. “The Australian commercial biofuel industry is in its infancy but its potential is significant. It could, for example, see plant waste from our sizeable agricultural industries turned into green fuels for use domestically or for export to meet aviation, shipping and defence demands.”

The new facility is also a precursor for a commercial-scale biorefinery proposed by Southern Oil which would take the Australian biofuels industry to the next level.

Earlier this year, as part of plans to develop a $150 million commercial-scale biofuel plant, Southern Oil announced a $16 million Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant in Gladstone. The pilot plant is scheduled to open in early 2017 and aims to produce one million litres of fuel.

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