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Leading experts talk on future of alternative transport fuels

24 July, 2007

World leading experts in alternative transport fuels technology met recently in Canberra to discuss recent advances and the future outlook of the industry.

The Synfuel Alternative Symposium, hosted by CSIRO, brought together Australian and international research experts to discuss the latest developments in gas-to-liquids and coal-to-liquids technology and examine the technical challenges to overcome in order to establish such an industry in Australia.

With the forecast declining levels of self sufficiency in oil, the search for alternative, locally produced fuels has become urgent. Australia’s large natural gas resources and coal reserves have the potential to provide security of supply for transport fuels.

However, according to CSIRO Petroleum’s gas-to-liquids expert, and Symposium Chair, David Trimm, there are significant technological hurdles which must be overcome to establish a viable synfuels industry in Australia.

“Many of the technical issues are unique to Australia and therefore demand local solutions – we cannot necessarily rely on imported technology,” Professor Trimm says.

“The Federal Government has recognised this and recently allocated $A59.6 million to CSIRO to increase research into alternative fuels.”

The Symposium marks the first high level technical conference to address the research needs related to conversion of gas to liquids, coal to liquids and biomass to liquids, altogether known as XTL. Producing synthetic fuels from gas, coal and biomass will be a key focus for CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship, through the additional funding.

“Our reserves of liquid transport fuels are diminishing and the conversion of natural gas to diesel or gasoline is an obvious solution,” says David Lamb, Leader for the Flagship’s Low Emissions Transport research.

“Even a small improvement in Australia’s liquid fuel self sufficiency will deliver significant economic benefits to the nation as we will be less dependent on expensive imported oil. In addition, these synthetic fuels have environmental benefits with lower emissions.”

“Producing synthetic fuels from gas, coal and biomass will be a key focus for CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship, through the additional funding.”CSIRO’s research in gas-to-liquids technology is a key focus of the new AusGas initiative according to CSIRO Petroleum’s Deputy Chief Dr David Whitford.

“AusGas is a national alliance of research centres in partnership with industry and Government to address the technology challenges of the local gas industry,” Dr Whitford says.

“AusGas recognises that the development of Australia’s natural gas resources offers the prospect of a secure and competitive supply of transport, domestic and industrial fuels, lower emissions and an opportunity for significant wealth generation, and gas-to-liquids is central to this.”

The Symposium keynote address will be delivered by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Jim Peacock, and world renowned experts including Jens Rostrup-Nielsen and Enrique Iglesia will discuss recent technological advances. In addition, CSIRO specialists from the Energy Transformed Flagship and Petroleum Division will outline the latest research activities in Australia.

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