Navy operational energy director tours Australian biofuel plant

By Erin Voegele | February 14, 2012

The U.S. Navy’s search for alternative fuels stretches beyond U.S. borders. According to information released by Australia-based Queensland University of Technology, Navy officials visited its Mackay Renewable Biocommodities pilot plant in early February.

“The U.S. Navy is meeting institutions in Queensland involved in research and development which could deliver the technology that could be passed on to industry partners, who would ultimately be the suppliers of these fuels on a commercial scale," said QUT Professor Sagadevan Mundree.

Mundree and other university representatives met with Chris Tindal, the Navy’s director for operational energy, as part of the visit. Tindal also toured Mackay Renewable Biocommodities pilot plant during his visit. “QUT is the only institution in Australia with the capability of demonstrating a diverse range of waste to biofuel technologies at the pilot scale,” Mundree said. “The pilot plant has now been operational for over 14 months, so Mr. Tindal is here to find out more about how the technology is progressing. The pilot plant is unique in that most biofuel research and development in Australia is taking place at a lab-scale level. However, we have the opportunity of taking biofuel technology from the concept stage to the pilot stage in a very short space of time.”

A statement released by QUT said that researchers working on the pilot plant are collaborating with a variety of Australian and international industry partners to demonstrate technologies that aim to convert agricultural waste materials, such as sugarcane bagasse, into cellulosic biofuels. Mundree also noted that the project has partnered with an Australian company that is working to develop biodiesel production technology. “We are assisting them in the demonstration of these products in the pilot plant,” he said. “So far we have produced several thousand liters of biodiesel from waste agricultural oils.”

According to information published to QUT’s website, the pilot plant aims to link innovations in product and process development with the assessment of commercial viability to enhance the uptake of advancement of biobased fuels in Australia. The plant is available for both public and private sector use. The university further notes that researchers who conduct work at the pilot plant are also able to leverage harvesting, transportation, storage, processing and analytical expertise available through QUT. Facilities and equipment available at the site include a pretreatment reactor, fermentation bioreactors, a distillation column for product recovery, and equipment for lignin recovery. 


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