Giant step for Queensland biofuels industry

A $16 million advanced biofuels pilot plant will be built at Southern Oil Refining’s Yarwun plant at Gladstone, a signficant step towards securing a large-scale biofuels industry in Queensland.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant represented an exciting step in the development of an advanced biofuels industry for Queensland.

If successful, the pilot plant will be expanded to a large commercial-scale refinery costing $150 million and producing 200 million litres of advanced biofuel annually, suitable for military, marine and aviation use.

Joining State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham and Biofuels Minister Mark Bailey in Gladstone to make the announcement, the Premier said it would be Australia’s first commercial-scale advanced biofuels production facility.

“I’m all about new industries because they will deliver new jobs and more prosperity, especially in regional Queensland,” the Premier said.

“A fully-fledged biofuels industry has the potential to play a key role in our economic future, and this pilot plant is a giant step towards achieving that goal.

“This pilot plant is essentially the launch site for a Queensland biofuels industry. If we can develop this plant into a large-scale refinery, that’ll mean jobs here in Gladstone, but it could also kick off a new wave of investment and job creation across Queensland.”

Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher said the region was perfectly placed to host the next big economic opportunity for Queensland.

“This is another big jobs opportunity for our region. And if it can progress from the pilot plant stage to the large-scale refinery, the jobs and opportunities will keep coming,” Mr Butcher said.

Dr Lynham said the biofuels industry could form part of a broader biotechnology sector that holds enormous potential for Queensland, both in terms of diversifying the economy and providing jobs.

“Together with the Biofutures Roadmap and 10-year action plan that will be completed by mid-year, this project will help position Queensland as a leader in the biofuels industry,” Dr Lynham said.

The pilot plant is expected to be operational by later this year and, within the next three years, aims to have produced one million litres of fuel for use in field trials by the US navy as part of its Great Green Fleet initiative, and also by the Australian Navy.

Last week, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia announced they had formed a partnership to investigate options for locally-produced aviation biofuel.

“This announcement, along with the 3 per cent biofuel mandate that applies from next January, illustrates how biofuels are going to figure more prominently in the fuel supply chains of the future,” Minister Bailey said.

“It also emphasises the importance to Queensland of this biofuels pilot plant project and plans for a subsequent full-scale commercial plant.”

Southern Oil Refining currently operates a waste lube oil re-refining plant at Yarwun in the Gladstone State Development Area as a joint venture with JJ Richards & Sons.

The $70 million plant is the only waste lube oil re-refining facility in Queensland, and has the potential to process all of the State’s 100 million litres annually of waste lube oil.

The advanced biofuels pilot plant will be co-located with the Yarwun re-refining facility.

The plant will use biomass material such as sugarcane bagasse and possibly prickly acacia as feedstock for the production of bio crude oil, which will then be distilled into saleable kerosene and diesel products.