Biofuel is fuel that is produced from organic matter (biomass), including plant materials and animal waste. It is considered a renewable source of energy that can assist in reducing carbon emissions. The two main types of biofuel currently being produced in Australia are biodiesel and bioethanol, used as replacements for diesel and petrol (gasoline) respectively. As of 2017 Australia is a relatively small producer of biofuels, accounting for 0.2% of world bioethanol production and 0.1% of world biodiesel production.
Total commercial biofuel production for 2018 is estimated at 290 million liters (ML): 250ML of ethanol and 40ML of biodiesel.
This article mainly deals with biofuels for personal vehicles, though cooking, heating and electricity generation can also use biofuel. Historically in Australia cooking and home heating have been accomplished by burning wood, a biofuel. 909,000 households in Australia still used firewood as their main heating method in 2005, with a further 300,000 using firewood occasionally.
The Fuel Standard (Biodiesel) Determination 2003 for Australia defines biodiesel as ‘a diesel fuel obtained by esterification of oil derived from plants or animals.
Biodiesel is usually made from vegetable oil, animal fats (tallow) or used cooking oil. Production of biodiesel is created through the reaction of these substances with an alcohol such as ethanol or methanol with the presence of a catalyst in processes called transesterification and esterification to produce mono-alkyl esters (biodiesel) and glycerine (by-product). In Australia, the main feedstocks currently in use are tallow, used cooking oil and oilseeds.
Biodiesel is used as fuel for vehicles and virtually all engines that take diesel can use biodiesel. Biodiesel can be used in its 100% pure form; however, it is commonly used as biodiesel fuel blends to reduce levels of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulates from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel fuels are available in a number of different blend levels. The names indicate the percentage of biodiesel the fuel contains, with B5 containing 5% biodiesel. Biodiesel blends, most commonly B5 and B20, are becoming increasingly available at service stations in all Australian states. Up to 5% biodiesel can be included in any diesel sold in Australia without additional labelling.
Australia does not produce renewable diesel, which differs from biodiesel. However, exports of tallow to Singapore for the manufacture of renewable diesel have increased significantly in recent years, due to reduced demand from biofuel refineries in Australia.
Bioethanol, which is often shortened to ‘ethanol’, is colourless alcohol made by the fermentation of biomass, using glucose derived from sugars (for example from sugar cane, sugar beet or molasses), starch (corn, wheat and grains) or cellulose (forest products). Ethanol produced from renewable energy sources, biomass, is the most promising biofuel for the future.
In Australia, there are three major fuel ethanol production facilities that produce ethanol primarily from waste wheat starch, grain sorghum and molasses. The total capacity to produce ethanol from these facilities is around 440 million litres a year. Approximately 68% of this production occurs in New South Wales, at a single production facility in Nowra.
Ethanol in its pure form can be used as a fuel for vehicles, but like biodiesel, it is usually mixed with petroleum to produce a blended motor fuel. By blending ethanol and petroleum it oxygenates the fuel mixture, meaning it will burn more completely, thus reducing the amount of harmful emissions. Ethanol fuel blends are available in a number of different blend levels. The names indicate the percentage of ethanol the fuel contains, with E10 containing 10% ethanol and E85 containing 85% ethanol. The most common blend is E10, which is available at more than 600 service stations nationally. E85 is offered through a smaller number of fuel outlets, targeting specialised vehicles.
The Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 relating to E85 states that the fuel may only be used in vehicles that have been specifically designed or modified to use E85. These include flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV) and V8 racing supercars. The first FFV available in Australia was the Saab BioPower 9.3 and 9.5 which coincided with United Petroleum launching and selling E85 at two of their service stations in Sydney and Melbourne in 2007. Caltex followed in 2010, launching their E85 product Bio E-Flex made specifically for flexible-fuel vehicles. Holden announced at the same time that Caltex E85 would be suitable for vehicles within the Holden Commodore VE Series II range. The Australian V8 Super Cars motor racing series have used E85 since the beginning of the 2009 season.
E85 is available at selected service stations around Australia. Vehicles compatible with E85 can also run on petrol or E10.
Biodiesel production facilities in Australia use feedstocks of animal fats (tallow), used cooking oil (recycled yellow grease) and a range of vegetable oils.
There has been a dramatic decline in biodiesel consumption in Australia since 2015. The Australian production of biodiesel is estimated at only 40ML in 2017 and 2018. Unfavourable conditions of limited mandate support, low international oil prices, high feedstock prices and insufficient tax relief to offset high feedstock prices led to the closure of a majority of the production facilities, resulting in a low production rate for the nation. Australian Renewable Fuels, the largest biodiesel producer in Australia, closed in early 2016. APAC Biofuel Consultants measured Australian total biodiesel consumption over several years. Consumption peaked in 2014-2015 at a value of 442 ML but crashed dramatically post July 2015-2016 to 35 ML due to the reasons stated above.
Australia exports non-GM oilseeds to the EU for the production of biodiesel.
In Australia, there are three established producers in New South Wales and Queensland that produce a total capacity of 440ML per year. The largest ethanol producer in Australia is in Nowra, New South Wales, which produces 300 million litres of ethanol using wheat waste starch. This corresponds to approximately 68% of total ethanol production.
Queensland has two ethanol plants, one in Dalby operated by United Petroleum and a smaller plant in Sarina operated by Wilmar (Sucrogen). The Dalby plant is located in the Darling Downs region of Queensland that grows sorghum, and the plant buys approximately 200,000MT of sorghum grain a year from local growers in the area. This amount of sorghum grain can produce 8 million litres of ethanol. For reference 1 MT of sorghum grain can produce 400 litres of ethanol. In mid 2017, the plant announced a US$20million investment to boost production capacity to reach 100 million litres a year.
The second Queensland ethanol plant is operated by Wilmar, a Singaporean-based company. Wilmar produces its ethanol by fermenting molasses, a by-product of sugar production, producing 60ML of ethanol per year.
A number of new ethanol plants have also been proposed for the near future:
There has been a significant push in research in the development of first-generation and second-generation biofuels. New feedstocks under development include Indian mustard seeds (Western Australia), Millettia pinnata (Queensland, Western Australia), Moringa oleifera (Western Australia) and algae (Queensland, South Australia, Victoria). Research is currently being undertaken by several Australian Universities and the CSIRO into other potential new feedstocks such as cyanobacteria, lignocellulose, pongamia and mallee. Some of these have been successfully demonstrated, such as algae-based fuels, but as yet are not commercially viable.
There are a number of projects in Australia developing technology to produce commercial quantities of syngas and biochar. Syngas is a fuel gas mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and other hydrocarbons, produced by incomplete combustion of biomass under low oxygen conditions (pyrolysis). The process produces biochar as a coproduct, which can be substituted in any application that uses coal, or used as a soil amendment to reduce nitrogen loss and improve the microbiota.
|Company||Type||Location||Total Installed Capacity
|Dalby BioRefinery||Ethanol||Dalby, QLD||80||Sorghum||In Production||2012|
|Manildra Ethanol Plant||Ethanol||Nowra, NSW||300||Waste starch||In Production||2012|
|Sucrogren BioEthanol||Ethanol||Sarina, QLD||60||Molasses||In Production||2012|
|ARfuels Barnawatha||Biodiesel||Barnawatha, VIC||60||Tallow, Used cooking oil||Closed||2016|
|ARfuels Largs Bay||Biodiesel||Largs Bay, SA||45||Tallow, Used cooking oil||Closed||2016|
|ARfuels Picton||Biodiesel||Picton, WA||45||Tallow, Used cooking oil||Closed||2016|
|ASHOIL||Biodiesel||Tom Price, WA||Unknown||Used cooking oil||In Production||01/06/2015|
|Biodiesel Industries Australia||Biodiesel||Rutherford, NSW||20||Used cooking oil,
|Ecofuels Australia||Biodiesel||Echuca, VIC||1.5||Canola oil||In Production||01/06/2015|
|Ecotech Biodiesel||Biodiesel||Narangba, QLD||30||Tallow, Used cooking oil||In Production||01/06/2015|
|Macquarie Oil||Biodiesel||Cressy, TAS||15||Poppy Seed oil,
Waste Vegetable oil
|Neutral Fuels||Biodiesel||Dandenong, VIC||Unknown||Used cooking oil||Closed||01/06/2015|
|Smorgon Fuels-BioMax Plant||Biodiesel||Laverton, VIC||15-100 (prior to closure)||Tallow, Juncea oil,
|Territory Biofuels||Biodiesel||Darwin, NT||140 (prior to closure)||RBD Palm oil, Tallow,
Used cooking oil
Two Australian states have introduced biofuel mandates- Queensland and New South Wales. New South Wales requires bioethanol to constitute 6% of petrol sales, essentially meaning that 60% of all petrol sales need to be E10. The Queensland mandate currently requires service stations to ensure that ethanol makes up 3% of their total regular and ethanol-blended unleaded petrol sales each quarter. The mandate commenced on 1 January 2017, with customers remaining free to choose the fuel they use. From 1 July 2018, the Queensland biobased petrol mandate will increase to 4%.
There is a degree of controversy surrounding the ethanol mandates. The Australian Government Productivity Commission recommended in 2017 that both the NSW and Queensland mandates be axed by the end of 2018, saying that they affect competitive dynamics and end up costing consumers more due to premium fuel subsitutions.
The Queensland government has created a number of programs aimed to make the state the center of manufacturing and producing biofuels for commercial production for military, maritime and aviation uses.
Federal government regulations apply to the quality of petrol and diesel fuel in Australia. The Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 provides a legislative framework for setting national fuel quality and fuel quality information standards. Fuel quality standards apply to petrol, diesel, biodiesel, autogas and ethanol E85.
Legislation from July 2003 imposes a 10% cap on the concentration of fuel ethanol blends. This was the result of vehicle testing showing that petrol blends containing 20% or more ethanol may cause problems in some older vehicles.There is also a requirement that retailers label blends containing fuel ethanol on the dispenser.
Domestically produced fuel ethanol is currently effectively exempt from excise tax until 30 June 2021 (an excise of 38.143 cents per litre is payable on petrol).
As of 2018 E10 educational campaigns have been introduced by two state governments. The New South Wales Government and partner NRMA brought in the 'Fuel for Thought' campaign in 2017. The Queensland Government and partner RACQ has a similar 'E10 OK' campaign. Both have compatibility checkers and information for motorists about ethanol-blend fuels.
The main deterrents of producing and consuming biofuel for personal vehicles are food security and land availability. One of the most concerning issues for the Australian population is the increase in food market prices arising from arable land being converted from food crops to biofuel production. For this reason, investment in and production of biofuels in Australia is highly debated.
There are widely documented environmental benefits of biofuel use over fossil fuels in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, emissions vary depending on the feedstock used during production and must be accounted for. For example, when using an E10 blend, greenhouse gases compared to unleaded petrol are lower by 1.7% from wheat to 5.1% using molasses. There is no data for E85 in a passenger car to compare to those statistics, however; emissions would be much lower than E10 due to less petrol in the blend. Greenhouse gas emissions for biodiesel from waste vegetable oil range from 89.5% lower for B100 to 4.2% lower for B5 compared to diesel. Biodiesel produced from tallow range from 29% less for B100 to 1.5% less for B5 compared to diesel and for canola the values range from 15% less for B100 to 1.5% less for B5 as compared to diesel. It is also important to note that for some feedstocks, greenhouse gas emission balances are not always positive, therefore, investment should be directed for feedstocks that have the highest positive greenhouse gas balances with the lowest environmental, economic and social costs.
There are potential negative impacts on the environment due to land use change. Biofuel crops are grown using monoculture farming methods, which may reduce biodiversity. Direct and indirect land use change can result in changes in carbon stocks on land through a loss of above and below ground biomass and soil organic carbon, which can lead to an increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Also, when crop-based biofuels contribute to deforestation or fragmentation, the pollution benefits of biofuels can be compromised or eliminated producing a net increase in pollution. There are also many indirect impacts derived from the production of biofuels, for example in Europe a study was conducted on the production of biodiesel from rapeseed oil, showing that using B100 instead of petrol diesel increased acidification by 59% and eutrophication by 214% due to the added nutrients and run-off.
Australia currently has no definite policy, rules or regulations relating to biofuel production with regard to biodiversity conservation or environmental sustainability.
|Biofuel||Source of Biomass||% Yield||Positive effects||Negative effects|
Used Cooking Oil
|80-99||Lower emission of CO2, CO, SO2, hydrocarbons and particulate matter
Better ecologic efficiency
Good net energy ratio (NER)
|Increase NOX emission
Ozone layer depletion
Competition with the food market when edible oils are used
|Bioethanol||Sugar from fruit, cane or beet||High||Do not require a complex pretreatment||Raw material us used as a human food source|
|Starch||High||May be used- some raw material not suitable for human food||Pretreatment is required
High production costs
Many raw material is used as a human food source
|Agricultural and wood wastes||Medium to high||Raw material is not used as a human food source||Pretreatment is required
Many pollutants from the pretreatment
High production costs
According to non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace and global scientific organisations such as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the frequency and intensity of disasters brought about by greenhouse gas emissions and climate change will grow rapidly in the world. The risks are particularly severe in some regions of Australia, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, the Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales. The Department of Climate Change said in its Climate Change Impacts and Costs fact sheet: "...ecologically rich sites, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Wet Tropics,
Kakadu Wetlands, Australian Alpine areas, south-western Australia and sub-
Antarctic islands are all at risk, with significant loss of biodiversity projected to
occur by 2020". It also said: "Very conservatively, 90 Australian animal species have so far been identified at risk from climate change, including mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians from all parts of Australia." Australia is already the driest populated continent in the world.
Climate change is recognised as one of the largest global crises. The issue has gained traction around the world as the world becomes increasingly urbanised. This is because urbanisation brings irreversible changes in our patterns of resource/waste production and consumption. Therefore, how to plan, manage and live in cities in the light of global warming largely determines and depends on the progress of the climate change phenomenon.According to projections by the Department of Climate Change in Australia, it is expected that national average temperatures would increase by 0.4 to 2.0 °C . Rainfall patterns and the degree of droughts and storms brought about by extreme weather conditions are likely to be affected.
Research has suggested that nearly three quarters of global energy consumption occur in cities, while emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming come from urban areas. Nearly a third of these emissions are caused by the burning of fossil fuels used in urban transportation. Another third is formed from the energy used to regulate building temperature and to run personal appliances. The final third is contributed by the industrial sector. The main emitters of greenhouse gases are the construction, real estate, agriculture and metallurgical industries, the transportation sector, the industrial uses of fossil fuels and the burning of biomass. Some examples of daily activities that contribute to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere include the use of carbon-based electricity in street lighting, driving motor vehicles, cooking, and the lighting, heating and cooling of housing.
If the policies of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries remain unchanged, specifically Australia and the United States, and also China and India, carbon dioxide emissions, which represents 72% of all greenhouse gas emissions, will increase by a third in the year 2020 instead of the 5% reduction as was approved in the Kyoto Protocol.With the current path of climate change, the world population is entering an era of growing urban vulnerability. The accelerated pace of urbanisation and the fact that a growing segment of the world's population now live in cities has significantly increased the vulnerability of urban areas as anthropogenic hazards and agents for climate change. It will become increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is caused by humans and what is natural because both risks are overlapping.Climate change in Australia
Climate change in Australia has been a critical issue since the beginning of the 21st century. In 2013, the CSIRO released a report stating that Australia is becoming hotter, and that it will experience more extreme heat and longer fire seasons because of climate change. In 2014, the Bureau of Meteorology released a report on the state of Australia's climate that highlighted several key points, including the significant increase in Australia's temperatures (particularly night-time temperatures) and the increasing frequency of bush fires, droughts and floods, which have all been linked to climate change.Since the beginning of the 20th century Australia has experienced an increase of nearly 1 °C in average annual temperatures, with warming occurring at twice the rate over the past 50 years than in the previous 50 years. Recent climate events such as extremely high temperatures and widespread drought have focused government and public attention on the impacts of climate change in Australia. Rainfall in southwestern Australia has decreased by 10–20% since the 1970s, while southeastern Australia has also experienced a moderate decline since the 1990s. Rainfall patterns are expected to be problematic, as rain has become heavier and infrequent, as well as more common in summer rather than in winter, with little or no uptrend in rainfall in the Western Plateau and the Central Lowlands of Australia. Water sources in the southeastern areas of Australia have depleted due to increasing population in urban areas (rising demand) coupled with climate change factors such as persistent prolonged drought (diminishing supply). At the same time, Australia continues to have the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the OECD. Temperatures in Australia have also risen dramatically since 1910 and nights have become warmer.A carbon tax was introduced in 2011 by the Gillard government in an effort to reduce the impact of climate change and despite some criticism, it successfully reduced Australia's carbon dioxide emissions, with coal generation down 11% since 2008–09. The subsequent Australian Government, elected in 2013 under then Prime Minister Tony Abbott was criticised for being "in complete denial about climate change". Abbot became known for his anti-climate change positions as was evident in a number of policies adopted by his administration. In a global warming meeting held in the United Kingdom, he reportedly said that proponents of climate change are alarmists, underscoring a need for "evidence-based" policymaking. The Abbott government repealed the carbon tax on 17 July 2014 in a heavily criticised move. The renewable energy target (RET), launched in 2001, was also modified. However, under the government of Malcolm Turnbull, Australia attended the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference and adopted the Paris Agreement, which includes a review of emission reduction targets every 5 years from 2020.The federal government and all state governments (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) have explicitly recognised that climate change is being caused by greenhouse gas emissions, in conformity with the scientific opinion on climate change. Sectors of the population have campaigned against new coal mines and coal-fired power stations, reflecting concerns about the effects of global warming on Australia.
The Garnaut Climate Change Review predicted that a net benefit to Australia may be derived by stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450ppm CO2 eq.The per capita carbon footprint in Australia was rated 12th best in the world by PNAS in 2011.Geothermal power in Australia
Geothermal power in Australia is little used but growing. There are known and potential locations near the centre of the country that have been shown to contain hot granites at depth which hold good potential for development of geothermal energy. Exploratory geothermal wells have been drilled to test for the presence of high temperature geothermal reservoir rocks and such hot granites were detected. As a result, projects will eventuate in the coming years and more exploration is expected to find new locations.Renewable energy in Australia
Renewable energy in Australia deals with efforts that have been and continue to be made in Australia to quantify and expand the use of renewable energy in the generation of electricity, as fuel in transport and in thermal energy. Renewable energy is created through electricity generation using renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, landfill gas, geothermal, solar PV and solar thermal.
There has been a substantial growth in Australia in generation of renewable electricity in the 21st century. Total renewable energy consumption in Australia in 2015 was 5.9% of Australia's total energy consumption;, compared to 4.3% of Australia's total energy consumptionn in 2011/12. It is estimated that Australia produced 35,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable electricity (or equivalent) in 2015, 14.6% of total production in Australia.Of all renewable energy consumption in 2015 (in order of contribution) biomass (wood, woodwaste and bagasse) represented 53%, hydroelectricity 19.2%, wind 10.7%, solar PV 5.1%, biogas 4.7%, solar hot water 3.8% and biofuels 3.6%. Bioenergy (the sum of all energy derived from plant matter) represented 61.3% of Australia's total renewable energy consumption in 2015.Similar to many other countries, development of renewable electricity in Australia has been encouraged by government energy policy implemented in response to concerns about climate change, energy independence and economic stimulus. A key policy that has been in place since 2001 to encourage large-scale renewable energy development is a mandatory renewable energy target, which in 2010 was increased to 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable generation from power stations. This was subsequently reduced to 33,000 gigawatt-hours by the Abbott Government, in a compromise agreed to by the Labor opposition. Alongside this there is the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, an uncapped scheme to support rooftop solar power and solar hot water and several State schemes providing feed-in tariffs to encourage photovoltaics. In 2012, these policies were supplemented by a carbon price and a 10 billion-dollar fund to finance renewable energy projects, although these initiatives were later withdrawn by the Abbott Federal Government.It has been suggested that with sufficient public and private sector investment and government policy certainty, Australia could switch entirely to renewable energy within a decade by building additional large-scale solar and wind power developments, upgrades to transmission infrastructure and the introduction of appropriate energy efficiency measures, together with the inevitable retirement of many ageing coal-fired power stations over the next 10 to 15 years.Solar power in Australia
Solar power in Australia is a growing industry. As of January 2019, Australia had over 11,085 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power, of which 3,871 MW were installed in the preceding 12 months. In 2017, 23 solar PV projects with a combined installed capacity of 2,034 MW were either under construction, constructed or due to start construction having reached financial closure. PV accounted for 3.8% of Australia's electrical energy production in 2017.Feed-in tariffs and renewable energy targets designed to assist renewable energy commercialisation in Australia have largely been responsible for the rapid increase. In South Australia, a solar feed-in tariff was introduced for households and an educational program that involved installing PVs on the roofs of major public buildings such as the Adelaide Airport, State Parliament, Museum, Art Gallery and several hundred public schools. In 2018, the Queensland government introduced the Affordable Energy Plan offering interest free loans for solar panels and solar storage in an effort to increase the uptake of solar energy in the state. In 2008 Premier Mike Rann announced funding for $8 million worth of solar panels on the roof of the new Goyder Pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the largest rooftop solar installation in Australia, qualifying it for official "power station" status. South Australia has the highest per capita take up of household solar power in Australia.
The installed PV capacity in Australia has increased 10-fold between 2009 and 2011, and quadrupled between 2011 and 2016.
The first commercial-scale PV power plant, the 1 MW Uterne Solar Power Station, was opened in 2011.Greenough River Solar Farm opened in 2012 with a capacity of 10 MW.
The price of photovoltaics has been decreasing, and in January 2013, was less than half the cost of using grid electricity in Australia.Australia has been internationally criticised for producing very little of its energy from solar power, despite its vast resources, extensive sunshine and overall high potential.Wind power in Australia
Wind power is one of the main renewable energy sources in Australia.
In 2018, wind power accounted for 7.1% of Australia's total electricity demand and 33.5% of total renewable energy supply.
As of December 2018, there were 5,679 megawatt (MW) of installed wind power capacity and a further 19,602 MW of capacity was proposed or committed to the electricity sector in Australia.
At the end of 2018 there were 94 wind farms in Australia, most of which had turbines from 1.5 to 3 MW. In addition, 24 projects with a combined installed capacity of 6,130 MW are either under construction or committed to be built in 2019 having reached financial closure. Australian wind power to grid peaked at 4 GW in February 2019.Wind power had an average annual rate of growth in installed capacity of 35% over the five years up to 2011.
As of October 2010, wind power accounted for approximately 5 TWh out of a total of 251 TWh of electricity used per year, enough electricity to intermittently power more than 700,000 homes during periods of high winds, and amounting to about two percent of Australia's total electricity consumption. This came from 52 operating wind farms with greater than 100 kW capacity, consisting of a total of 1,052 turbines. This figure represented approximately a 30% increase in wind power generation each year over the previous decade, or a total increase of more than 1,000% over that time. The total installed capacity at October 2010 was 1,880 MW (1.88 GW), counting only projects over 100 kW, with a further 1,043 MW under construction.
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