Australia's biofuels lobby laments 'government policy vacuum'

29 Mar 2018 | John McGarrity

Australia’s biofuels lobby is pushing the country’s government to co-ordinate a clear strategy for the sector, including the introduction of an E10 bioethanol blend and incentives for advanced biofuels for use in transport.

Bioenergy Australia and Queensland University of Technology researchers this week presented a five-point plan to expand the use of biofuels in Australia and take advantage of the country’s natural resources and expertise in fuels production.

“While Australia has as many advantages and more potential than other countries, policy and program vacuums have seen the Australian bioenergy industry languish behind,” the lobby said in a statement.

It added that increased use of 10% ethanol-blended petrol (E10) in Australia could create more than 8,600 direct & indirect jobs, lure A$1.56 billion in investment and generate more than A$1.1 billion in additional revenue each year, particularly in rural communities.

The strategy urges the federal government to do the following:

1. Develop a national biofuels, bio-based products and bioeconomy strategy;

2. Implement a national biofuels mandate supporting the introduction of higher quality fuels;

3. Provide supporting mechanisms of education, incentives and infrastructure;

4. Establish policy frameworks for advanced/drop-in biofuels, biochemical and bio-based products;

5. Support commercial developments through industry and research collaboration.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Biofuels Annual, Australia’s biofuels industry has been slow to evolve because  mandates do not cover the entire country while tax relief alone has failed to boost use of bioethanol and biodiesel.

“With minimal mandate support, biodiesel production and imports have collapsed since 2014 due to lower world crude oil prices and high feedstock prices,” the USDA points out, adding that  total biofuel production for 2017 is estimated at 290 million litres, comprised of 250 million litres of fuel ethanol and just 40 million litres of biodiesel.

Lack of mandates

Production of fuel ethanol has declined less compared with biofuel because of its value as an oxygenate in gasoline, and it is supported by a mandate in New South Wales and a new 2017 mandate in Queensland, US government researchers say. 

Second-generation biofuels, such as energy crops and algae-based fuels, have been successfully tested but are not yet commercially viable, the USDA noted, although the sector has secured support from the Queensland government for an advanced biofuels plant to produce fuel for military, aviation and marine sectors.

Meanwhile, aviation jet fuel supplier World Fuel Services is selling biofuel blended fuels to airlines operating out of Australia and the country could become a major supplier of bio-oil crushed from carinata for use in aircraft, according to Montreal-based agritech company Agrisoma Biosciences.