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Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative (QSAFI)

Objective

The ultimate goal of the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative is to help enable construction and operation of a sustainable biofuel manufacturing facility in Queensland.

 

Category
Research & Development

Value-chain step
All

Type of pathway
Sugar-to-alkane, microalgae, oleaginous

Starting time and duration
2010 -

Stakeholders
Universities, Airlines, Manufacturers, Fuel producers

Regional scope
Regional

Involved countries
Australia

Status
On-going
Description
The project started in 2010 at The University of Queensland, with a first phase completed by 2013. A second project is now evaluating the specific business case for a biofuel production plant in Mackay, Queensland.
 
The initiative was established through a Queensland Government National and International Research Alliances Program grant that brought together a consortium of university biofuel experts and industry for the AU$6.5 million first stage of the program. The second phase to evaluate the business case is funded through the Queensland Government’s Research Partnerships Program.
 
The overall objective of the project is to perform the initial stages that constitute the different steps to the construction and operation of an industrial facility in Queensland:
  1. Concepts analysis
  2. Business case
  3. Pre-feasibility study
  4. Feasibility study
  5. Implementation / plant construction
  6. Operations

Step 1 was performed during the first phase of the project. Step 2 is underway.

In addition to the production of jet fuel for Australian airlines, the project also targets the manufacturing of biodiesel for other end-users, such as the navy, mining companies and long-distance road transportation.

Current on-going and completed research includes:

  • Sugar cane conversion to produce aviation fuel molecules, with systems and synthetic biology research to improve fuel production from sucrose using engineered microbes;
  • Techno-economic modeling based on open and accountable information from journal reports, patents and industry to deliver cost estimates and identify main issues for the conversion process associated to the three feedstocks selected from the first project’s phase.
  • A business case analysis on the conversion of sugarcane to advanced biofuel in Queensland, Australia.

 

Partners

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and the Institute for Molecular Biosciences (The University of Queensland), James Cook University, Boeing Research & Technology - Australia, Virgin Australia, Mackay Sugar Limited, General Electric, IOR Energy, Amyris.

 

Achievements to date
Results from the first phase of the project have been published in the international journal “Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining” and were presented at the Boeing-hosted Aero Environment Summit in Sydney in May 2013.
 
The processes to convert three feedstocks - sucrose from sugar cane; microalgae; and oily seeds from a tree called Pongamia – were modeled to produce a minimum selling price for aviation biofuel. The results showed that using current proven technologies, the biofuels would be economically competitive with crude oil at a price per barrel of $301 (sugarcane), $374 (Pongamia seeds) and $1,343 (microalgae).
 
Identified research priorities to lower the prices include:
  • delivering higher fermentation yields in the sucrose process;
  • producing Pongamia seeds with a higher oil content; and
  • developing cheaper and more effective microalgae harvesting technologies.

The results showed that implementing these technological improvements could lower the price to $168 (sugarcane), $255 (Pongamia seeds) and $385 (algae).

 

Contact information