Australia's first biofuels pilot plant was opened in Gladstone by the Premier of Queesland
Australia's first biofuels pilot plant was opened in Gladstone by the Premier of Queesland Paul Braven

Australia's first biofuels pilot plant opened in Gladstone

Australia's first biofuels pilot plant was officially opened by the Premier of Queensland and Minister for the Arts, Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, in Gladstone today.

The $18 million Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant (NOABPP) was opened just 14 months after the project was announced by the Premier.

The NOABPP is a joint venture between Southern Oil and J.J. Richards & Sons, on the site of their Northern Oil Refinery and brings together five best-of-class technologies from around the world to produce biocrude and renewable fuels from waste.

Southern Oil Managing Director Tim Rose said that, together with a $5.3 million biocrude and biofuel laboratory which opened on site last December, the NOABPP was a game changer for Queensland and would be a significant economic and employment contributor to the region.

"Over the next three years, this pilot plant aims to produce one million litres of fuel for use in field trials by the US navy as part of its Great Green Fleet initiative, by the Australian Defence Force for the navy, by Australian heavy road transport operators, and for the Australian agricultural and aviation sectors," Mr Rose said.

"But we don't intend to stop there; this is the next step towards a $150 million, commercial-scale biofuels plant that will produce in excess of 200 million litres of advanced biofuel annually - a project that has the potential to create hundreds of jobs and new industries across regional Australia."

WATCH | Annastacia Palaszczuk opens Australia's first biofuels plant in Gladstone

Mr Rose said that, over coming months, the pilot plant would trial and process a wide range of "waste" products to covert into renewable fuels.

"The rubber is literally hitting the road in Gladstone with used mining and passenger tyres some of the first waste streams to be trailed," he said.

Other waste streams to be tested include plastics, wood waste, Prickly Acacia, sugar cane trash and bagasse, urban and a variety of agricultural green waste including macadamia shells.

AgForce Queensland CEO Charles Burke voiced his strong support for the opportunities the biofuels pilot plant may provide for primary producers.

"I am excited at the prospects the agricultural sector may have as an important contributor in the supply chain, turning waste into a biocrude," Mr Burke said.

"Using everyday waste from normal agricultural production and value adding it as a renewable feedstock will potentially allow a secondary income stream for regional Queensland which is great for primary producers and great for the state.

"We are also very pleased to see that Prickly Acacia, a declared pest of national significance, is a potential feedstock for the biofuels industry."

Independent reviews suggest that the agricultural sector might become the single largest source of waste feedstock for the Queensland renewable fuels industry.

Australia's peak national body for resource recovery and recycling, ACOR, also recognised Southern Oil and JJ Richards' achievement.

ACOR CEO, Grant Musgrove said it was "somewhat fitting on the day after State of Origin, that Queensland kicks a major goal for the renewable sector".

"Our organisation has a national focus, and I am delighted to acknowledge that Queensland is ahead of the pack with the opening of the Gladstone biofuels facility," Mr Musgrove said.

"Successfully converting any of the waste streams being trailed into a commercial biocrude will result in a new industry that is scalable across Australia."

J.J. Richards General Manager - Business Development, Richard Taylor, outlined why the largest privately owned waste company in Australia had invested millions of dollars in the Gladstone biofuels pilot plant.

"J.J. Richards has built a business around managing the collection and disposal of a variety of wastes such as green and organic waste, plastics, used tyres and even bio-solids," Mr Taylor said.

"We are excited to be a partner in transforming those waste streams into the next generation of resource recovery - the ability to build a commercial scale biofuels refinery in Australia will also help better guarantee domestic fuel security."

Mr Rose said that while the feedstocks for the pilot plant would be considered waste products to most, they were critical components of a more secure fuel future for Australia.

"Our renewable diesel will be the next generation of biodiesel - it will be a direct diesel replacement that can be used independently or in a mix with crude diesel," Mr Rose said.

"The big advantage is that renewable diesel comes from biological sources and general wastes, while crude diesel comes from fossil crude oil."

Mr Rose said the pilot plant did not end up in Queensland "by accident".

"Southern Oil made the decision to locate its biofuels future in Queensland because of the State Government's vision for the biofuels industry, financial incentives to locate the pilot plant in Queensland, and because of the wide range of feedstock sources available in this state," Mr Rose said.

"What we are doing here is a step beyond the old adage that 'one person's trash is another person's treasure'.

"This is more practical. Here, we will convert one person's trash into a another person's transport future."

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