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US Navy taps into Australian biofuel capabilities

08 February, 2012

Biofuel technology being developed by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers has caught the interest of the US Navy, which is currently in Australia on an alternative fuel fact-finding mission.

The US Navy intends to have a fleet of warships known as the "Great Green Fleet" running on biofuels by 2016, and by 2020 it plans to run half of its entire fleet on alternative fuels.

"The US Navy is meeting institutions in Queensland involved in research and development which could deliver the technology that could be passed on to industry partners, who would ultimately be the suppliers of these fuels on a commercial scale," QUT's Professor Sagadevan Mundree said.

Professor Mundree and Dr Ian O'Hara from QUT met with Chris Tindal, the US Navy's director for operational energy, earlier this month to explain the capabilities of QUT's Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant.

The meeting was followed up with a tour of the pilot plant in Mackay.

"QUT is the only institution in Australia with the capability of demonstrating a diverse range of waste to biofuel technologies at the pilot scale. The pilot plant has now been operational for over 14 months, so Mr Tindal is here to find out more about how the technology is progressing," Professor Mundree said.

"The pilot plant is unique in that most biofuel research and development in Australia is taking place at a lab-scale level. However, we have the opportunity of taking biofuel technology from the concept stage to the pilot stage in a very short space of time."

Professor Mundree said that the US Navy have announced they require 80,000 barrels of biofuel for the Green Fleet voyage in 2016.

"We have considerable capability to develop technologies that could potentially be delivered by industry partners to satisfy a significant portion of that requirement," he said.

Researchers at the pilot plant are already working with a number of Australian and international industry partners to develop and demonstrate technologies which can turn agricultural waste, such as bagasse from sugarcane, into biofuels.

"We have also partnered with a Queensland company which is developing biodiesel technologies, and we are assisting them in the demonstration of these products in the pilot plant. So far we have produced several thousand litres of biodiesel from waste agricultural oils," Professor Mundree said.

The pilot plant has been funded by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, the Queensland Government's Smart State Research Facilities Fund, the Australian Government's Education Investment Fund and QUT with the support of Mackay Sugar Ltd.

QUT's industry partners in this project include the large global agri-business Syngenta, Leaf Energy, The Biofuels Partnership and Mackay Sugar Ltd.

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JOHN GRAY | Tuesday, March 6, 2012, 9:36 AM
Agricural waste should be composted and returned to the soil. Reduce the use of chemical fertilisers - the excess washes into streams and pollutes the Coral Reefs. Agriculture is for Food production.