Queensland’s circular bioeconomy in the world news

This article appeared in the Biofuels Digest – USA. Photo courtesy of the ABC.

In the last few days, a Queensland oil refinery said it is making biofuel from old tyres and hopes to commercialise it soon to help take care of a huge tyre waste issue in Australia as well as help the country’s fuel security. One tyre equals two litres of fuel and Southern Oil Refineries said it has conducted large-scale pilot tests showing it works. They are moving into demo stage this year and plan on producing 10 to 20 million litres next year.
Southern Oil Refineries general manager Ben Tabulo told ABC News, “[We’ve proven] renewable diesel can work in Australia’s engines and does have the same efficiency on the road. The renewable diesel … has been refined from post-consumer waste, mainly mixed tyre crude oil and refined into 100 per cent drop-in diesel. Our laboratory has shown this diesel is indistinguishable from fossil diesel and will give all the performance that you expect from fossil diesel. Today we’ve put renewable diesel made from tyres, into this engine … it is a normal engine as you would find it trucks and boats, there is nothing special about it.”
Scania, one of the largest producers of heavy vehicle and industrial engines globally, is working with them to approve the fuel for use in their engines. Scania national manager Andre Arm told ABC News, “I think sustainable fuel is the future and no one can deny that there is a push worldwide to have a look at where we’re going with our conventional fuel. It shows Aussie ingenuity, it provides the possibility for fuel security and there’s the environmental benefit as well for sure.”
Government-backed bio-economy
When we talk about innovators, we usually talk about inventors, researchers, the geniuses behind the newest technologies, but a government can also fill that role, as Queensland did just a few months ago. The Queensland government was the first jurisdiction in the world to sign on to below50, the low-carbon emissions initiative, highlighting their commitment to a more sustainable fuel industry for the state. below50 is a global campaign of WBCSD promoting the production and implementation of fuels which produce 50% less CO2 emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels.
Coupled with the biofuel mandate, the move further promotes the state’s biofuels industry, looking to capitalise on a gap in the Asia-Pacific to make Queensland a regional biofuels hub.
As the regional hub host of below50 Australia, QRFA has been driving a low-carbon fuel economy and promoting further uptake of sustainable fuels for the state and Australia.
QRFA managing director Larissa Rose said: “Queensland is in prime position to become a world leader in renewable and biofuels, with its large agriculture sector, its proximity to Asia, and possessing State Government backing.”
Queensland’s potential as a biofuel hub in the Asian Pacific region was also brought up during government meetings in D.C. back in July 2018 between Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick and the U.S. Department of the Navy, as reported in The Digest. The Minister met at the Pentagon with biofuel experts and announced the appointment of Queensland’s new US-based Strategic Biofutures Advisor, Chris Tindal.
The Queensland government and the US Department of the Navy signed a Statement of Cooperation in August 2016 to collaborate on developing alternative fuels. “Since the agreement with the US Navy was signed we have seen positive growth for the industry here, Minister Dick told Manufacturers’ Monthly. “The Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant, Australia’s first advanced pilot biofuels refinery, has been constructed, and work is underway for the production of fuels that meet military requirements.”
Innovating tomorrow, today
Southern Oil Refineries and the government aren’t the only innovators and forward thinkers in Queensland, however. You don’t have to look very far to see R&D work being done to discover the next best thing for our bioeconomy.
Researchers at the University of Queensland supported by the US Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Sugar Research Australia are testing a range of sugarcane varieties to identify which types produce ethanol most effectively and efficiently, as reported in The Digest in March. Their gene-editing of sugarcane for use in renewable energy and bio-plastics could help secure the industry’s future.
Researchers are also collaborating with the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi to investigate processes that break down sugarcane fibre to make bioplastics.
Another study being conducted by researchers at Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Tropical Coprs and Biocommodities is the first to assess biofuels from biomass before turning to bottles and will look at whether PEF from sugarcane can be more economical than PET at scale.
The three-month pilot is looking at the economic viability of turning sugarcane waste, bagasse, into other compounds including plastic bottles. It is being conducted in partnership with Mercurius Australia using a patented process created by the U.S. based parent company Mercurius Biorefining.
Funded by the Queensland Government’s A$150M Jobs and Regional Growth Fund and the aim is to take the bagasse and produce biofuel and bioplastics at scale in a sustainable manner. Dr Rackemann told Beverage Daily that “The science has been proven. The engineering now is trying to prove the economics.”
And speaking of investment…
Putting money where your mouth is
Ok, so the government is on board. Innovative companies are on board. Researchers and scientists are on board. But what about the investors? Looks like they are on board too, given the latest investment action in recent months – heck, even in the last few weeks.
Proposals were recently being accepted for the $5-million, Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund aimed at cultivating technologies that convert waste into useful products and create jobs in the state, as reported in NUU in March. Feedstocks can include food and household wastes, tyres, plastics, fats and oils, and biosolids from sewage treatment facilities.
“The Queensland Waste to Biofutures Fund offers grants from $50,000 to $1 million to develop pilot, demonstration or commercial-scale projects that produce bio-based products instead of conventional fossil fuel-based products,” Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Cameron Dick tells Energy Magazine. “The fund will support projects that transform carbon-rich waste from agriculture, food processing, construction and industrial processes into bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts. Through this initiative we’ll see innovative waste processing technologies emerge that are scalable and can be deployed statewide, particularly in regional areas of Queensland.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is even promoting Queensland overseas for additional investments with a recent trip to Germany. At an event hosted by Australia’s Ambassador to Germany, Lynette Wood, the Premier said “Germany and Queensland are entering a new era of innovation-led investor relations, which will be strengthened further by the new Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Australia and my Government’s $650 million Advance Queensland initiative.”
She also met with German representatives at top companies like Bombardier Transport, ShareNow, Siemens Energy, renewables finance group KfW and waste management company Remondis International, a variety of logistics companies during her trip last week. She mentioned that DB Schenker has been involved in bringing sustainable aviation fuel to the Brisbane Airport.
Shell is even investing in Queensland, albeit for an 800-hectare endangered native forest regeneration project.
Bottom line
We see the makings of a positive future for Queensland – between the government’s realization that the bioeconomy is key and worth supporting, the investments in R&D and initiatives to promote biobased businesses, and the already existing entrepreneurship and innovation that is creating new technologies, Queensland is sure to lead by example.

Qantas claims world-first US-Australia biofuel flight

Qantas has conducted what it says was the world’s first dedicated biofuel flight between the United States and Australia, QF96 from Los Angeles to Melbourne, on 29 January.
The historic trans-Pacific 15 hour flight operated with approximately 24,000kg of blended biofuel, saving 18,000kg in carbon emissions.
Qantas used biofuel processed from Brassica Carinata, a non-food, industrial type of mustard seed, developed by Canadian-based agricultural-technology company, Agrisoma Biosciences (Agrisoma).
The flight was part of the partnership announced in 2017, which will also see the companies work with Australian farmers to grow the country’s first commercial aviation biofuel seed crop by 2020.
Across its lifecycle, using Carinata-derived biofuel can reduce carbon emissions by eighty per cent compared to traditional jet fuel.
The ten per cent biofuel blend used on the flight would therefore have seen a seven per cent reduction in emissions on this route, compared to normal operations.
Carinita requires no specialised production or processing techniques. It is water efficient and The University of Queensland field trials in Gatton, Queensland, and in Bordertown, South Australia, have demonstrated it should do very well in the Australian climate.
It is sown in either fallow areas where food crops fail or in between regular crop cycles, known as ‘cover cropping’.  Rotational or break-crops can improve soil quality, reduce erosion for food crops and provide farmers with additional income.
Qantas’ first trans-Pacific biofuel flight was made possible with the support of AltAir Fuels and World Fuel Services.
What is Carinata?
Carinata produces high quality oil, ideal for aviation biofuel, bio-jet for aircraft and bio-diesel for airport vehicles. It is a ‘drop-in’ crop and requires no specialised production or processing techniques.

Carinata-based fuel offers a more than 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions in comparison to standard petroleum based fuel.
The crushed Carinata seed produces a high-quality, high-protein, non-GMO meal for the Australian livestock, dairy and poultry market.
One hectare of Carinata seed yields 2,000 litres of oil, which produces 400 litres of biofuel, 1,400 litres of renewable diesel and 10% renewable by-products.

Qantas to be first to bio-fly from US to Australia

Helena Tavares Kennedy, Biofuels Digest
Qantas will operate the world’s first biofuel flight between the United States and Australia early in the new year in collaboration with World Fuel Services and Altair Fuels. Qantas’ new Dreamliner is being powered by Brassica Carinata (carinata), a non-food, industrial type of mustard seed that has been around for years but is seeing increased use and viability thanks to new developments and improvements with the feedstock for biofuels, animal feed, chemicals, and other uses.
The news of the flight follows Qantas’ signing of a landmark partnership with Agrisoma Biosciences, the Canadian based agricultural-technology company that developed the carinata seed. The two organisations will work with Australian farmers to grow the country’s first commercial aviation biofuel seed crop by 2020.
“Our long-term goal with this partnership is to grow the crop at a target of 400,000 hectares, which will ultimately produce more than 200 million litres of bio jet fuel for the airline,” said Steven Fabijanski, Agrisoma’s president and CEO.
Bringing carinata production to Australia
Qantas International CEO Alison Webster said the early 2018 historic flight and the partnership mark the first step in developing an aviation biofuel supply in Australia. “We are constantly looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions across our operations but when it comes to using renewable jet fuel, until now, there has not been a locally grown option at the scale we need to power our fleet. Our work with Agrisoma will enable Australian farmers to start growing today for the country’s biofuel needs of the future. The trans-Pacific biofuel flight is a demonstration of what can be achieved locally.”
“The longer-term strategic goal of the partnership is to grow 400,000 hectares of carinata, which would yield over 200 million litres of bio-jet fuel each year,” said Ms Webster. “This will support the development of a renewable jetfuel supply and bio-refinery in Australia to power our fleet and further reduce carbon emissions across our operations.” Another part of the plan down the road is to grow seeds elsewhere around the world to support Qantas’s global travel network.
The University of Queensland field trials in Gatton, Queensland, and in Bordertown, South Australia, have demonstrated that carinata should do very well in the Australian climate. It is sown in either fallow areas where food crops fail or in between regular crop cycles, known as ‘cover cropping’. Rotational or ‘break’ crops improve soil quality, reduce erosion for food crops and provide farmers with additional annual income.
Agrisoma CEO Steve Fabijanski said carinata-based fuel offers a significant reduction in carbon emissions. “Our commercial operations in the USA, South America and Europe are certified as producing fuels with more than 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions in comparison to standard petroleum-based fuel,” said Mr Fabijanski. “Importantly for farmers, the crushed seed also produces a high-quality, high-protein, non-GMO meal for the Australian livestock, dairy and poultry market.”
The production of Agrisoma’s carinata is being expanded to multiple locations globally to provide a supply of sustainable, non-food oils for meeting the demand for sustainable biofuels.
Why carinata?
Carinata is a pretty impressive feedstock, producing up to 140 gallons of jet fuel per acre with some trials reaching as high as 200 gallons per acre. Carinata fuels could be eligible for support via the LCFS and the US Renewable Fuel Standard — up to $0.80 due to the LCFS and another $1.50 in advanced biofuels RIN. (Yes, advanced biofuel RIN are priced around $1.00 — but consider that jet fuels have 1.5 times the energy density of ethanol, so they get added RIN). That provides $4.00 to the value chain – growers, oil crushers and hydrotreaters.
The Qantas news on choosing Agrisoma to establish an Australian-based supply chain for its carinata-based jet fuel is not just another big announcement by another big airline. It’s another move in the needle. It’s another commercialisation champion moving forward to make things happen. It’s getting bio jet fuel from being a pie in the sky idea to a fly in the sky reality.

Qantas to use renewable biofuel from 2020

Qantas has announced its Los Angeles-based aircraft will be powered by biofuel from 2020, reducing the airline’s carbon emissions on its services operating between the US and Australia.
The goal is to have the LAX to Australia flight powered on an ongoing basis by 50% non-food plant based biofuel and 50% traditional jet fuel starting in 2020.
Over the next ten years, the airline will buy eight million gallons (30 million litres) of renewable jet fuel each year from US based bio-energy company, SG Preston.
The fuel consists of 50 per cent renewable jet fuel produced from non-food plant oils, blended with 50 per cent traditional jet fuel. Compared to standard jet fuel, the biofuel emits half the amount of carbon emissions per gallon over its life cycle.
CEO of Qantas International and Freight Gareth Evans said the commercial biofuel agreement is the first of its kind in Australian aviation history.
“The partnership with SG Preston is part of our commitment to lowering carbon emissions across our operations and sees us becoming the first Australian airline to use renewable jet fuel on an ongoing basis.
“Our agreement with SG Preston allows us to secure a supply for our Los Angeles-based aircraft, where we have a large fuel demand and where the biofuel industry is more advanced.
“Through our biofuel program we are also exploring renewable jet fuel opportunities in Australia and continue to work with suppliers to develop locally produced biofuels for aviation use.
Renewable jet fuel is chemically equivalent to, and meets the same technical, performance and safety standards as conventional jet fuel. SG Preston’s biofuel is produced from renewable plant oils, which do not compete with food production and which meet Qantas’ stringent sustainability certification requirements.
The announcement comes after a 5-year-long testing period. In 2012, Qantas and Jetstar operated what Qantas says were Australia’s first biofuel trial flights. Qantas’ A330 Sydney-Adelaide return service and Jetstar’s A320 Melbourne-Hobart return service were both powered with biofuel derived from used cooking oil (split with 50:50 conventional jet fuel) certified for use in commercial aviation.

Biofuel in planes: Brisbane to develop ‘bio-port’

Virgin Australia, Brisbane Airport Corporation and the global market maker in sustainable jet fuel, SkyNRG, announced a feasibility study into the creation of Australia’s first “bio-port” at Brisbane Airport.

The three parties have entered a memorandum of understanding which will see them work together towards the goal of enabling aircrafts to be fuelled with bio-jet fuel at Brisbane Airport.

The feasibility study will take 12 months to complete, and will involve researching the locally available feedstocks, sustainable and cost-effective methods of transport and the most appropriate technology for converting them into biofuel.

Virgin Australia CEO Sean Donohue said the company was committed to meeting renewable energy targets.

 “Virgin Australia is committed to developing a local sustainable supply of biofuel for use in our aircraft and we have set ourselves the target of 5% renewable fuel use from 2020.

“South-East Queensland is an ideal base for this project because it is one of our largest hubs and hosts many potential sustainably harvested feedstocks for biofuel, including woody weeds, crop residues and bagasse.

Dirk Kronemeijer, managing director of SkyNRG said touted Australia as the best nation to develop the fuel technology.

“We strongly believe in Australia as potentially one of the best places in the world for developing sustainable jet fuels. We are therefore very pleased that our first announced bio-port outside Europe is going to be in Australia. We will do whatever it takes to turn this into a success by developing a local supply chain for sustainable jet fuel that is one day scalable and affordable.”

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman welcomed the announcement and supported Virgin Australia’s vision of using biofuel for its fleet.

 “Today’s announcement is another vote of confidence in Queensland’s aviation and agricultural industries,” Newman said.

“Queensland is a state that supports innovation and we congratulate Virgin Australia on undertaking this research to deliver a greener fuel source for commercial aviation.”

Image: SMH.com

Air New Zealand 747 flies on bio-oil

Air New Zealand successfully flew a Boeing 747 partially fuelled by jatropha oil, achieving a significant milestone in the development of sustainable fuels for aircraft.
 
The airline used a 50-50 blend of standard jet fuel and biofuel made from the oil of jatropha plant seeds to power one of the engines on a Boeing 747 during a two-hour test flight.
 
It was claimed to be the world’s first test flight using jatropha biofuel and followed a Virgin Atlantic test flight earlier in the year using a blend including coconut oil and babassu nut oil.
 
"We undertook a range of tests on the ground and in flight with the jatropha biofuel performing well through both the fuel system and engine," Air New Zealand chief pilot Dave Morgan said.
 
The test flight was a joint venture involving Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell company UOP, with support from Terasol Energy.
 
Biofuels are seen as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels but critics are opposed to turning farmland over to the cultivation of biofuel at the expense of food crops. However, some sources of bio-oil, such as algae and jatropha, do not usually displace food crops or result in rainforest destruction as other oil-producing plants do, as they are grown in arid or semi-arid conditions.

Airbus wins Air NZ order, looks to 100 per cent synthetic fuel

Air New Zealand has ordered 14 Airbus A320 aircraft to replace its existing domestic fleet of 15 Boeing 737-300s. Airbus has also announced its desire to see aviation move to synthetic fuels in the future.
 
Air New Zealand
 
The A320, which is larger than the aircraft type it will replace, will enable Air New Zealand to increase capacity on routes that are starting to face capacity constraints at some airports during peak times. Air New Zealand has also placed purchase options for a further 11 A320 aircraft, including the possibility of selecting the larger A321.
 
"Our 12 Airbus A320s already deployed on short haul international routes are performing well, and moving to one single-aisle aircraft type for both domestic and short haul international routes will immediately deliver added efficiencies in maintenance, crew training, and overall fleet simplification," said Bruce Parton, Air New Zealand general manager short haul airline.
 
Enhanced aerodynamics, engine enhancements and improved navigation technology such as ‘continuous descent approach’ keep the A320 the most eco-efficient aircraft in its class, Airbus claims.
 
The A320 Family includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321. Each aircraft features fly-by-wire controls and all share cockpit and operational commonality across the range. More than 6,400 Airbus A320 Family aircraft have been sold to more than 300 customers and operators worldwide, making it the world’s best selling commercial jetliner ever, and Airbus claims the A320 Family has the lowest operating costs of any single-aisle aircraft. Uniquely, the A320 Family offers a containerised cargo system, which is compatible with the world wide standard wide-body system.
 
Synthetic fuel approved
 
Airbus has welcomed the latest steps towards the approval by ASTM International, one of the largest voluntary standards developing organisations in the world, for the use of a 50 per cent synthetic jet fuel in commercial aviation. Synthetic liquid jet fuels can be made from biomass, natural gas or coal. All of these are known as xTL
fuels.
 
"This breakthrough paves the way for a 100 per cent xTL blend made entirely from bio feedstock, such as woodchip waste", said Christian Dumas, Airbus vice president sustainable development and eco-efficiency. "This new specification is a major step towards reducing aviation’s environmental footprint and represents a significant achievement along the Airbus alternative fuels roadmap," he added.
 
The Airbus Alternative Fuels roadmap estimates that some 30 per cent jet fuel used in 2030 could be sustainable bio-jetfuel if maturity of alternative high yield non-food feedstock occurs in the middle of the next decade.
 
A major step towards the progressive introduction of alternative fuels was achieved on 1st February 2008, for the first time in commercial aviation history, a civil airliner, an Airbus A380 with Rolls Royce engines, flew using a 40 per cent blend of synthetic fuel derived from natural gas (GTL) supplied by Shell.
 
Airbus believes in extended international and cross-industry cooperation to develop sustainable alternative fuel solutions. Airbus and its partners have already gone a long way to studying fuel alternatives. Airbus is sharing alternative fuel research with European partners (Calin, Alfa-Bird -Alternative Fuels and Bio fuels for aircraft development). In November 2007, Airbus, Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Fuels, Qatar Science & Technology Park, Rolls Royce and Shell International Petroleum Company Limited signed an agreement to investigate in detail operational and environmental benefits of the use of GTL fuel for aviation

Qantas joins Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group

Qantas has announced that it had formally joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), a bipartisan industry group established to accelerate the development and commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel.
 
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said Qantas’ involvement in the group was recognition of the airline’s commitment to environmental sustainability initiatives.
 
“Through the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group we are joining other industry partners to work together to lessen the environmental impact of aviation,” he said.
 
“Qantas is also looking at ways to save fuel and reduce carbon emissions, and is pioneering Required Navigational Performance (RNP), which uses leading edge technology to land aircraft efficiently.
 
“It is initiatives such as these, and the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, where airlines are working together to develop technology that will lead to a more environmentally sustainable  industry.”
 
SAFUG members must pledge that any sustainable aviation fuel will:
  • Perform as well as, or better than, traditional kerosene-based fuel, but with a smaller carbon lifecycle.
  • Use only renewable fuel sources that minimise biodiversity impacts and require minimal land, water, and energy to produce and that do not compete with food or fresh water resources.
  • Provide socioeconomic value to local communities where biomass is grown.
Qantas is also an active member of the regional branch of SAFUG that is looking at issues specific to the Australian and New Zealand environmental context.
 
 

Aviation industry continues environmental push despite downturn

Boeing and Airbus maintain they will continue developing biofuel-powered aircraft, whilst European aviation authorities are designing traffic-friendly approach paths to save fuel and reduce emissions.
 
While Boeing and Airbus say they are not planning on making the biofuels themselves, they are working with ethanol and other biofuel producers to develop aircraft for the new fuels.
 
The sharp drop in oil prices since the start of the global recession has raised concern that the development of fuel-efficient jets may stall, while the airline industry is also being squeezed by plummeting passenger numbers.
 
"The economic downturn doesn’t lead to any change in our product strategy," said Christian Dumas, vice president for sustainable development at Airbus.
 
He said the airline industry has to think long-term because an aircraft’s life span is typically 30 to 35 years
 
"We are not going to diminish our efforts in research and development," Dumas told Associated Press in Geneva, where he was taking part in a meeting on aviation and climate change.
 
Meanwhile, Boeing has already made several successful test flights using plant-based oils that the manufacturer claims are as good as or better than normal jet fuel.
 
Boeing expects biofuels to be certified for regular use in three to five years and predicts that most airlines would use it in some planes by 2015.
 
Airbus expects it will take until 2025 before biofuel accounts for even a quarter of the fuel airlines use, and the company also has doubts about the availability of the alternative fuel in sufficient quantities.
 
Traffic-friendly approach paths
 
Currently, large aircraft burn up tonnes of fuel and generate unnecessary emissions following complicated, multi-level approach paths into airports. Recognising this, around 100 European airports plan to allow planes to descend directly from cruising altitude to the runway in one smooth glide, saving up to 450 kilograms of CO2 per landing.
 
In all, airlines are hoping to save 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide this way each year. The plan is expected to be implemented by 2013.

Cheap biofuels from leaves and twigs

Non-food sources for biofuels.

Non-food plant materials produce lignocellulose,

a source of alternative fuels. (Photo: Gregory Heath, CSIRO)

Almost any leaves, twigs and bark can be converted into a biofuel, according to a new report from the CSIRO.

Lignocellulose, a component of plants and wood, can be used as a source of biofuels, with the potential to produce much more cost-competitive fuels.

Dr Victoria Haritos said the technology to convert plants into fuel presents a huge opportunity for Australia to expand the clean energy market.

“We have the potential to grow a lot of lignocellulose, the raw material for biofuels, we have a lot of land that would be suitable for growing this plant in Australia. And we also have the technological know-how,” she said.

“We see the great potential in the use of lignocellulose, such as plant leaves and woods, simply because there’s so more of it. And it grows so much faster with so much more biomass.”

Dr Haritos said the lignocellulose-extracted biofuel would represent the second generation of biofuels, which utilise a wider range of sources to generate fuel.

“The first generation biofuels are what we are familiar with at the moment, which usually come from cane sugar and wheat starch. The second generation biofuels aim to expand the biofuel industry enormously and use non-food sources to produce fuel.”

She said the US companies that are trialling the technology estimated the price of lignocellulose fuels at 26 cents a litre, an equivalent cost of oil at USD 40-60 a barrel.

Another advantage of the technology, she said, is its compatibility with current biofuel facilities.

 

“They [lignocellulose fuels] are certainly useful for production. For some types of the conversion of plant materials, you can just add on an extra unit in front of the current sugar biofuel facility,” Dr Haritos said.

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