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Sustainable production of transport biofuels from mallee crops by pyrolysis and biorefinery

This project aimed to develop a new technology and increased technical expertise to equip Australia to grow and convert farm-grown mallee crops into advanced biofuels that can meet transport fuel demands while reducing carbon emissions.

  • $2.50m

    ARENA Funding

  • $3.00m

    Total Project Value

Need

The cost-effective conversion of farm-grown mallee crops into liquid fuels could help to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the transport industry, promote regional economic development and help control dryland salinity.

Project innovation

The project successfully developed a new technology that combines heating (pyrolysis) of mallee crops and processing (biorefinery) of the resulting bio-oil to sustainably produce advanced biofuels.

The key features of the technology were demonstrated in laboratory-scale pilot plants.

The project found that, depending on the biorefinery configuration, the cost of producing biofuels from mallee crops grown in the WA wheatbelt could be as low as 49 cents a litre (or 17.6 dollars per GJ embedded in the biofuel).

If the biochar that is created as a by-product of the biofuel production process is returned to the field as a soil conditioner, the overall process could have negative carbon emissions, that is, result in net sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Two patent applications have been made on the pyrolysis and biorefinery technologies that were developed during the project. The project also increased understanding about how mallee crops could be produced at an affordable price and at a large enough scale for biofuel production.

  • Project basics

    ARENA Program

    Advanced biofuels

    Lead Organisation

    Curtin University of Technology

    Start Date

    Sep 2009

    Project Partners

    CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and WA Department of Environment and Conservation

    Location

    Perth, Western Australia

    Status

    Past

Project Basics

ARENA Program

Advanced biofuels

Lead Organisation

Curtin University of Technology

Start Date

Sep 2009

Project Partners

CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and WA Department of Environment and Conservation

Location

Perth, Western Australia

Status

Past

Benefit

The process developed in this project can produce affordable, advanced biofuels with much lower carbon emissions than the fossil fuel alternatives. The new pyrolysis technology uses simplified equipment, does not produce a residual product that requires disposal, demands less energy and can accept nearly all types of biomass as the feedstock.

The technology can also treat biomass so that it can be used as fuel for co-firing with coal in existing coal-fired power stations. The new biorefinery technology efficiently converts bio-crude into drop-in biofuels using cheap catalysts.

A decision tool that was developed during the project to estimate mallee crop production based on key site characteristics will be made directly available growers to speed up the development of the mallee-based biofuel industry.

Many young scientists and engineers, including PhD students, received research training during the project.

Final report

Sustainable production of transport biofuels from mallee crops by pyrolysis and biorefinery (PDF 123KB) | (DOCX 2.6MB)

More information

Curtin University’s media release – 10 August 2009: Significant biofuels research funding for Curtin

Contact information

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Chun-Zhu Li, Director, Fuels and Energy Technology Institute

+61 8 9266 1131

chun-zhu.li@curtin.edu.au

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