Australia would be capable of supporting its own aviation biofuel industry, provided significant obstacles were removed, according to the results of study released by Qantas and Shell today.
Conducted with the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the study is being described as the most comprehensive investigation so far into the economic viability of producing biofuel on a commercial scale in Australia.
The study found that a plant capable of producing 1.1 billion litres of renewable fuels a year – using natural oils as a proven source material and existing supply-chain infrastructure – was viable, but that some key priorities had to be addressed first.
These included the standard requirements of increased investment and research and development; investment in and development of new biofuel refining infrastructure; and policy support, including the extension of biodiesel production grants.
“It’s well-established that certified biofuel can be used safely in commercial flights,” Qantas’ Head of Environment, John Valastro, said. “Qantas’ focus now is on making it a viable alternative to conventional jet fuel.”
Valastro also stressed that biofuel was the only technology capable of delivering the generational change required for the aviation industry to meet its ambitious target of a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.
“The next step for Qantas is to work closely with our partners to find ways of increasing the supply and reducing the cost of aviation biofuel feedstocks in Australia – one of the major obstacles that need to be addressed.
“At the same time, we will be talking to governments about the importance of a supportive policy environment for biofuel production, given its potential to create jobs and open up new opportunities in the agriculture sector and regional Australia.”
The Qantas-Shell study looked only at certified biofuel production methods already approved for use in commercial aviation, and which meet strict operational and environmental criteria.
As well as natural oil-based fuel production pathways, Qantas worked directly with Solena Fuels to assess the opportunities around a waste-based pathway, which shows promise but also faces commercial challenges.
In addition to Qantas and Shell, a number of other companies with relevant expertise took part, including Sinclair Knight Merz, SkyNRG, AltAir Fuels, Solena Fuels and the Australian Research Council.