New Reports Released Covering Potential Bioenergy Feedstocks to Meet Australia’s Future Energy Needs
(News4us.com) December 10, 2010
With public debate surrounding how Australia can meet its future energy needs gathering pace in recent weeks, three new RIRDC reports on potential bioenergy feedstocks will serve as a valuable addition to the exchange of ideas on our nation’s future energy supply.
“It is widely regarded that bioenergy could play a significant role in a low carbon energy future in Australia,” Dr Roslyn Prinsley, General Manager New Rural Industries said.
“It could help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and provide an alternative income source for farmers through the establishment of new rural industries.
“But to achieve sustainable industry expansion, we need a solid scientific basis to help inform industry and government decision making, and drive potential private sector investment.
“These reports will help us understand which potential feedstocks are commercially viable and best suited to Australia’s growing conditions, in particular our unique climate and soils.
“And importantly, the studies help to dispel the myth that the production of bioenergy feedstocks has to come at the expense of land destined to grow crops for human consumption.
“In actual fact, the feedstocks investigated in these reports – agave, giant reed and Australian native plants – were grown in marginal and degraded land areas where conventional crops would find it difficult to prosper and remain profitable.”
Feasibility of Agave as a Feedstock for Biofuel Production in Australia concludes that it is feasible to grow agave in Australia to produce ethanol. Agave is an extremely water efficient plant and has been used to produce alcohol for centuries, such as tequila.
The researchers found that Queensland’s climate and soils were best suited to agave’s production in Australia, with its wet warm summers and cool dry winters very similar to areas in Mexico where agave is widely grown.
The second report uncovers an exciting new potential use for Australian native plants – using them to produce biodiesel to power the farm’s tractor or on-farm equipment.
Evaluating Biodiesel Potential of Australian Native and Naturalised Plant Species found 20 of the 200 plant species evaluated for their oil content could be used as biodiesel feedstocks.
This includes the Beauty Leaf Tree. Biodiesel oil from the tree was tested for its engine performance, with the study uncovering favourable results.
Commercial Potential of Giant Reed for Pulp, Paper and Biofuel Production highlights the significant potential of giant reed in areas unsuitable for food crops due to high salt levels. Researchers found more than 45 tonnes of giant reed could be grown per hectare annually on marginal lands using saline winery wastewater for irrigation.
“With large areas of marginal land in Australia underutilised because of their high saline content and wastewaters, this report is a significant breakthrough for the potential future growth of the biofuels and biopaper industries,” Dr Prinsley said.
The reports, launched at the Bioenergy Australia conference, are at www.rirdc.gov.au
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