$11.9 million funding for advanced bioethanol technology

By Thamizhpparithi Maari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Thamizhpparithi Maari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $11.9 million (€7.7 million) in funding for Ethanol Technologies (Ethtec), an Australian biofuel company. The funding will go towards the development and demonstration of Ethtec’s advance bioethanol technology.

Ethtec aims to construct a $30 million (€19.3 million) purpose built pilot-scale facility in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. ARENA’s funding, on behalf of the Australian government, will go towards the completion of the pilot demonstration plant which will produce ethanol from a range of non-food waste plant matter left over from crop harvesting and forestry.

Aiming to overcome the obstacles to widespread use of ethanol fuel, Ethtec has developed a new approach to the production of bioethanol from a range of waste or low-value products including sugarcane bagasse, forestry residues and cotton gin trash known as lignocellulosic biomass. “The technology thus avoids the ‘fuel versus food’ tension associated with production of ethanol from corn or wheat starch,” claims an Ethtec statement.

Dr Russell Reeves, Ethtec’s chief scientist and managing director, explained: “Internationally it is recognised that an ethanol fuel industry based on production from lignocellulosic materials results in substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport and industrial sectors while simultaneously assisting to provide solutions to rural unemployment and land degradation through enhancing the economics of crop and forest production.”


Growing demand

According to ARENA, demand for ethanol in Australia is expected to increase by approximately 500 million litres each year up until 2030, with mandates in place in Queensland and New South Wales. All of Australia’s ethanol is currently first generation, which means it’s derived from wheat and sugarcane.

“Advanced biofuels provides an exciting opportunity for Australia to open up export avenues and also help reduce emissions from the transport sector,” said Ivor Frischknecht, ARENA CEO.

“Ethtec’s facility in the Hunter Valley will demonstrate a new and innovative process for the production of bioethanol, gaining pivotal research and development experience that will lead to the commercialisation of the process and position Australia as a leader in advanced biofuels,” Frischknecht continued.

ARENA’s support is pivotal to Ethtec’s plans, Reeves said in a statement. The project has also secured $11.9 million in matching funding from leading industry partner Jiangsu Jintongling Fluid Machinery Technology Company. The facility will partner with researchers from the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources at the University of Newcastle, and is receiving support from Muswellbrook Shire Council.

“Ethtec is highlighting the value-adding opportunities for owners of lignocellulosic materials, the development opportunities for regional and rural communities, the land remediation opportunities for mine operators and the cost-competitiveness of the ethanol produced as key elements of the technology commercialisation programme”, Reeves explained.

By Thamizhpparithi Maari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons