A biofuels plant in Queensland is going to convert plastic, tyres and an invasive weed into diesel and energy.

The Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant in Yarwun near Gladstone, has already used four waste-based products – including softwood plantation waste and macadamia nuts – and refined it into fuel, with another seven waste products to be tested.

“This facility, owned by Southern Oil, has generated renewable crude from used oil residue, softwood plantation waste, blue pine, and macadamia nut shells,” QLD Minister for Environment and Science, Leeanne Enoch said.

“This project is amazing, and is leading the way to a sustainable fuel future for Queensland.

“At the opening of this facility mid last year (2017) with the premier, this facility was able to show how their biodiesel fuel, made from macadamia shells, could be used to power a government vehicle.

“Now they are going test another seven waste-based products, and woody material from an invasive plant known as the prickly acacia – also a Weed of National Significance – has been prioritised as the next feedstock to be refined into saleable kerosene and diesel products.

“Other products the plant are planning to convert into renewable diesel and energy include plastics, wood waste and tyres.”

Renewable crude from Northern Oil has been upgraded to quality diesel fuel oil using pilot scale distillation and hydrotreating rigs.

This means it can be used to run diesel engines.

Laboratory testing has also confirmed the renewable crude can be further refined to make jet fuel and lubricants.

Queensland’s Biofutures Envoy, Professor Ian O’Hara, complemented Southern Oil on the technical achievements taking place in Gladstone.

“To be able to produce renewable biocrude generated from different waste streams, and then apply pilot scale distillation and hyrdotreatment on-site to create a certified fuel is a great accomplishment,” Mr O’Hara said.

“The Queensland Government’s vision of a billion dollar biofutures industry has just been given a tremendous boost.

“What Southern Oil have demonstrated is that they have the technical capability to make drop in fuel from a range of wastes. Queensland has a huge amount of agricultural and industrial wastes, so this process is entirely scalable, and the opportunities very exciting.”

Member for Gladstone, Glenn Butcher, said the ultimate goal was to produce 400 million litres of renewable fuel each year at the Gladstone refinery.

“The Palaszczuk Government’s vision is for a $1 billion sustainable and export-oriented industrial biotechnology and bioproducts sector in Queensland,” Mr Butcher said.

“Our government is determined to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill and it is amazing that here in Gladstone we have a facility that can convert waste material, which could end up in landfill, and turn it into biofuels.”

Southern Oil’s Managing Director, Tim Rose, said Queensland’s emerging renewable fuel industry was not just good for the environment but also good for Queensland’s economy – with significant benefits flowing through to regional Queensland.

“While we have invested heavily in a world-class laboratory and cutting edge technology to produce a certified fuel, we have also invested heavily in independent economic modelling around the availability, aggregation and logistics of available waste streams in Queensland.

“We intend to establish regional hubs where the waste is generated, to produce our renewable crude. The crude will then be transported from across Queensland to the Gladstone Renewable Fuel Refinery.

“So new regional industries creating new jobs and new market opportunities. The numbers add up. It’s a viable and scalable business proposition.”

The Northern Oil refinery was the first project attracted to Queensland by the State Government’s $65 million Advance Queensland Industry Attraction Fund (AQIAF).

The fund, which offers businesses assistance to establish or expand in Queensland, has so far supported eight projects which will create almost 470 jobs and generate more than $237 million in capital expenditure in the next five years. 

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