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Biofuels gateway to creating Australian bioeconomy – new QUT report suggests

Increased use of 10 percent ethanol-blended petrol (E10) in Australia could create more than 8 600 direct and indirect jobs, attract AU$1.56 billion in investment and generate more than AU$1.1 billion in additional revenue each year in regional areas, a new report by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers has found.

A new report by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers has found that increased use of 10 percent ethanol-blended petrol (E10) in Australia could create more than 8 600 direct and indirect jobs, attract AU$1.56 billion in investment and generate more than AU$1.1 billion in additional revenue annually.each year in regional. “Biofuels are the gateway too creating a bioeconomy” says report lead author Professor Ian O’Hara (photo courtesy QUT).

Released March 28, the report, “Biofuels to bioproducts: a growth industry for Australia“, outlines the status of the biofuels and bioproducts sectors here and overseas, and identifies opportunities for Australia to build more profitable and sustainable agricultural industries that produce biofuels and bioproducts such as chemicals, plastics, enzymes and surfactants from crop residues, wastes and energy crops.

Report lead author Professor Ian O’Hara, the principal research scientist at QUT’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, said the first step to creating a successful Australian bioeconomy was to grow bioethanol and other biofuels industries.

Biofuels are the gateway to creating a bioeconomy, and biofuels production and consumption in Australia lags behind benchmark countries such as the United States and Brazil. It is clear that biofuels industries can grow economies, particularly in regional and rural areas where there is an abundance of agriculture residue that can be transformed into high-value bioproducts, Professor O’Hara said.

Professor O’Hara is Queensland’s inaugural Biofutures Industry Envoy, and a director of Bioenergy Australia, an association advocating the use of biomass for energy in Australia. The report co-authors are QUT Adjunct Professor Karen Robins, and Bas Melssen, Novozymes Asia Pacific.

Other benefits to Australia of growing its biofuels and bioproducts industries identified in the report included:

  • Potential increase in revenue to farmers from biomass-based industries from up to AU$7.8 billion per year now to more than AU$11.4 billion by 2050
  • Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 8.9 million tonnes annually by increasing biofuels use up to 10 percent in both petrol and diesel across Australia
  • Increased fuel security and reduced fuel imports by 18 percent annually through implementation of a national mandate or target for 10 percent ethanol blending in petrol
  • Improved balance of trade by about AU$1 billion annually through substituting 10 percent of petrol imports with ethanol produced domestically.

The report, endorsed by Bioenergy Australia, proposes a five-point plan to grow Australia’s biofuels and bioproducts industry, including developing national biofuels and bioeconomy strategy, implementing a national biofuels mandate or target that supports higher quality fuel standards, and supporting commercial development through industry-research collaborations.

Bioethanol, which is the cleanest alternative for increasing the octane content of petrol and improving fuel and vehicle performance, is one example. In Australia, E10 ethanol-blended petrol accounted for only 1.1 percent of the total sales of petrol in 2015-16. Increasing domestic production of bioethanol and the sales of ethanol-blended petrol to 10 percent of total petrol consumption would have significant benefits in job creation, increased investment, and additional regional income, concluded Professor O’Hara.

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