CSIRO and Monash University have developed a chemical process that turns green waste into a stable bio-crude oil, which can be used to produce high-value chemicals and biofuels, including both petrol and diesel replacement fuels.
"By making changes to the chemical process, we’ve been able to create a concentrated bio-crude which is much more stable than that achieved elsewhere in the world," said Dr Steven Loffler of CSIRO Forest Biosciences.
"This makes it practical and economical to produce bio-crude in local areas for transport to a central refinery, overcoming the high costs and greenhouse gas emissions otherwise involved in transporting bulky green wastes over long distances."
The process uses low value waste such as forest thinnings, crop residues, waste paper and garden waste, significant amounts of which are currently dumped in landfill or burned.
"By using waste, our Furafuel technology overcomes the food versus fuel debate which surrounds biofuels generated from grains, corn and sugar," said Dr Loffler.
"The project forms part of CSIRO’s commitment to delivering cleaner energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by improving technologies for converting waste biomass to transport fuels."
The plant wastes being targeted for conversion into biofuels contain chemicals known as lignocellulose, which is increasingly favoured around the world as a raw material for the next generation of bio-ethanol.
Lignocellulose is both renewable and potentially greenhouse gas neutral. It is predominantly found in trees and is made up of cellulose; lignin, a natural plastic; and hemicellulose.
CSIRO and Monash University will apply to patent the chemical processes underpinning the conversion of green wastes to bio-crude oil once final laboratory trials are completed.
The research to date is supported by funding from CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship program, Monash University, Circa Group and Forest Wood Products Australia.
Read more at www.csiro.au/science/ps3vf.html. A podcast is also available at www.csiro.au/multimedia/OilFromRubbishPodcast.html.
Photo: Waste paper is a potential source of fuels (CSIRO)