The laboratory will help produce an advanced biofuel product.
By Cameron Drummond
SOUTHERN Oil’s advanced biofuels laboratory opened its doors on 12 December, a milestone for Australia’s fledgling biofuel industry.
The $5.3m laboratory is located at Southern Oil’s existing Northern Oil Refinery at Yarwun, near Gladstone.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) provided $2.37m in funding toward the lab, which was set to significantly advance the country’s green-fuel industry.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Australia boasted innovative biocrude development companies like Muradel and Licella, but until now the nation had no facility to help them test and refine their products.
“ARENA is committed to helping accelerate the shift of new solutions like biofuels toward commercialisation and the Southern Oil laboratory is an important step that will enable local biofuel projects,” Mr Frischknecht said.
Importantly, the lab will be available for use by any Australian biofuel company at no cost.
Australian researchers and developers from across the biofuels industry would now be able to conduct biocrude testing in Australia, rather than overseas, which filled a gap for the industry to allow testing under local conditions which is seen as faster and more cost effective.
“The testing will be able to determine the viability of refining different kinds of biocrude, which can be made from biomass such as regional agricultural waste, into usable fuel.”
The new facility is also a precursor to a proposed $150m commercial-scale biorefinery from Southern Oil.
As part of those plans, a $16m advanced biofuels pilot plant to produce 1 million litres of fuel each year was nearing completion at the Northern Oil Refinery site and was scheduled to open early this year.
“Biofuel is really important to Australia because our local supplies of crude are dwindling and local refining capacity is shutting down, [so] a local supply of advanced fuel is vital for the country’s self reliance,” Southern Oil chief executive Tim Rose said.