Potential to Supply US & Australian Navies with Fuel from Biowastes : $16m Sugarcane Waste to Biofuel Pilot Plant Project Underway in Queensland

Southern Oil Refining waste biomass biofuel queensland australia
© Southern Oil Refining

New Zealand based Southern Refining is to build a AU$16 million ($12 milion) advanced biofuels pilot plant at its existing lubricating Yarwun oil recycling facility plant at Gladstone in Queensland, Australia.

According to Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant represents a step in the development of the industry for Queensland and could become Australia’s first commercial-scale advanced biofuels production facility.

If successful, the pilot plant will be expanded to a large commercial-scale refinery costing AU$150 million and producing 200 million litres of advanced biofuel annually, suitable for military, marine and aviation use.

New Industries

“I’m all about new industries because they will deliver new jobs and more prosperity, especially in regional Queensland,” commented Palaszczuk. “A fully-fledged biofuels industry has the potential to play a key role in our economic future, and this pilot plant is a giant step towards achieving that goal.”

“This pilot plant is essentially the launch site for a Queensland biofuels industry. If we can develop this plant into a large-scale refinery, that’ll mean jobs here in Gladstone, but it could also kick off a new wave of investment and job creation across Queensland.

Member for Gladstone, Glenn Butcher, said the region was perfectly placed to host the next big economic opportunity for Queensland.

“This is another big jobs opportunity for our region. And if it can progress from the pilot plant stage to the large-scale refinery, the jobs and opportunities will keep coming,” he said.

Broader Biotech Strategy for Queensland

According to the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham, the biofuels industry could form part of a broader biotechnology sector that holds enormous potential for Queensland, both in terms of diversifying our economy, and providing jobs.

“Together with the Biofutures Roadmap and 10-year action plan that will be completed by mid-year, this project will help position Queensland as a leader in the biofuels industry,” he said.

The pilot plant is expected to be operational by later this year and within the next three years Southern Oil Refining aims to have produced 1 million litres of fuel for use in field trials by the US navy as part of its Great Green Fleet initiative, and also by the Australian Navy.

Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have also formed a partnership to investigate options for locally-produced aviation biofuel.

“This announcement, along with the 3% biofuel mandate that applies from next January, illustrates how biofuels are going to figure more prominently in the fuel supply chains of the future,” commented Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply, Mark Bailey.

“It also emphasises the importance to Queensland of this biofuels pilot plant project and plans for a subsequent full -scale commercial plant,” he added.

Co-location with Lube Recycling Plant

Southern Oil Refining currently operates a waste lube oil re-refining plant at Yarwun in the Gladstone State Development Area as a joint venture with JJ Richards & Sons.

The $70 million plant was said to be the only waste lube oil recyling facility in Queensland, and has the potential to process all of the State’s 100 million litres annually of waste lube oil.

The advanced biofuels pilot plant will be co-located with the Yarwun lube recycling facility and will use biomass materials such as sugarcane bagasse and possibly prickly acacia as feedstock for the production of bio crude oil. This will then be distilled into saleable kerosene and diesel products.

“For the past few months, we have been assessing whether to site this important piece of technology at our Wagga Wagga plant in New South Wales or at our new re-refinery in Gladstone,” explained Southern Oil Refining Managing Director, Tim Rose.

“Our decision was made easier with the announcement of the Queensland Government’s Bio Futures Roadmap which is the only forward-thinking policy in Australia in this critical area,” he added.

“This demonstration plant will be a big step towards creating a clean transportation future.” Asserted Rose.

Naval Power

According to Rose the company had been working with the Australian Defence Force for some time to develop green fuel technology that satisfied the requirements of the US and Royal Australian navies and the Great Green Fleet vision.

“The results of our preliminary investigations have been very encouraging and we’re now ready to move to this one million litres a year pilot plant,” said Rose.

“Once our biofuel is accepted by both navies, it will open the door to a commercial scale refinery capable of meeting the ADF’s needs and provide green fuel opportunities for aviation and other heavy transport industries, “ he concluded. “And Queensland will be a world leader in this space.”

A video explaining Southern Refining’s existing lube oil recycling plant can be viewed below.


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