Australia to Become ‘Saudi Arabia’ of Biorefining: Media Release

Norwegian Bio-refining specialist, ENEnergy, has announced that it has identified an ideal Australian location for an ethanol bio-refinery which could be producing the equivalent of 7500 barrels of fuel per day within 4 years.

The site, located in Western Australia’s West Canning Basin, is just one of many massive areas of land across Australia’s northern regions that ENEnergy has identified as well-suited for large-scale bio-refining projects that can turn low value crops into valuable fuel and livestock feed.

If all of these areas were ramped into full production for bio-refining, it could generate exports or import replacements worth $AU410 billion per year to become Australia’s largest industry.

It could also make Australia’s entire coal-fired energy sector carbon-neutral and make the country the first carbon negative economy in the world.
ENEnergy is currently in discussions with potential investors to secure funding to complete the pre-construction and finance feasibility phase for the West Canning project prior to seeking full-development financing.

ENEnergy Chairman, Hans Olav Bjornenak, said Australia had the potential to be the “Saudi Arabia” of the global green energy economy
“Australia has a vast amount of land that is not suitable for standard agriculture but is suitable to grow high density biomass crops like Arundo Donax (or Giant Cane). This crop will grow in very poor conditions and produce around 100 dry tonnes of biomass per hectare,” Mr Bjornenak said.
“Using the ENEnergy technology and biomass from purpose built plantations we can produce large quantities of ethanol at approximately $30 per barrel.”

Mr Bjornenak, who is currently in Australia developing opportunities to deploy ENEnergy’s breakthrough biomass-to-sugar conversion technology, said that 15 million hectares (approximately 2% of Australia’s land mass) could be suitable for growing Giant Cane without displacing any potential food production.

The technology allows all forms of biomass to be quickly and sustainably converted to cellulosic sugars, lignin and organic matter that can then be converted into a range of other products, most notably 2nd Generation Cellulosic Ethanol.

Giant Cane already grows wild in parts of Australia and has been extensively studied as an energy crop by SARDI (the South Australian Research and Development Institute). It has the added benefit of storing large amounts of carbon in its root mass.

The company estimates, that it can permanently sequester (within the terms of the Kyoto protocol) approximately 7.5 Billion tonnes of CO2 — roughly equal to 20 years of current Australian CO2 emissions.

In addition, by producing 150 million tonnes of pure lignin or “Green Coal”, the company said that Australia’s entire coal-fired energy sector could be made carbon-neutral.

Australia would effectively become the world’s first “Carbon Negative” economy and simultaneously generate economic development.

“Developing an industry of this size will obviously take time but the technology is here today and ready to roll out” Mr Bjornenak said.

ENEnergy is a Norwegian head-quartered energy company established in 2006 that has developed a breakthrough technology for the conversion of cellulosic material (plants) into sugars that can then be transformed into liquid energy in the form of ethanol plus lignin and organic waste. The ENEnergy process is extremely fast and significantly reduces the investment cost of biofuels production. The ENEnergy technology is a 2nd Generation process that does not rely on using food crops for feedstock.

A 10,000 hectare plantation would produce the equivalent of 7,500 barrels of ethanol per day, or the equivalent of 2.3% of Australia’s total gasoline consumption.

A plantation of only 300,000 hectares would produce more energy than Woodside Petroleum produced in 2010. (i.e. 197,000 barrels per day oil equivalent).

At 15 million hectares Australia could produce over 11 million barrels of ethanol for the global transport fuels market per day. (Larger than Saudi Arabia’s current production of 10 million barrels per day). Australian total oil consumption is just less than 1 million barrels per day.

At today’s prices it would generate a $410 Billion per annum export or import replacement industry.

It would produce approximately 150 million tonnes of Pure Lignin per year which is “Green Coal” that can be used to replace thermal coal in power stations with very little need for modifications. This could effectively make the entire coal fired energy sector in Australia Carbon Neutral.

The ENEnergy production process can be swung to produce large quantities of protein, for the livestock feed or aqui-culture industry or Xylitol, a healthy choice sweetener/sugar replacement. This eliminates argument that there is a “food vs. fuel” trade-off, in this case.

Perhaps most importantly, it can permanently sequester (within the terms of the Kyoto protocol) approximately 7.5 Billion tonnes of CO2 – or roughly equal to 20 years of currentAustralian CO2 emissions. Australia would become the first “Carbon Negative” economy and simultaneously generate economic development.


This is a media release from ENEnergy


10 Responses to Australia to Become ‘Saudi Arabia’ of Biorefining: Media Release

  1. cementafriend March 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    One has to wonder at the viability and costing. The following article in todays Australian puts a different perspective on biofuels
    I would suggest that oil extraction from shale (billions of tonnes of resources already discovered in Queensland -new plants going on line in USA) and coal to oil is more viable (China and India building plants).

  2. Shaun Colley March 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Thanks for the link Cementafriend. I am from ENEnergy, the company listed in the release above so you can take my comments in that context. We think Mr Lomborg is basically right except that we have actually developed that technology for converting non-food plant material to sugars that can then be converted to ethanol. We have also identified high density crops that can grow adequately on land that is no good for other forms of agriculture. If we put these two things together with Australia’s vast land resources we can produce energy – in large amounts – at prices cheaper than the current cost of fossil fuels. I am no expert in Shale oil but if the Canadian/US experience is anything to go by this as a very expensive route to go down and does nothing to address our CO2 issues – infact it will have the opposite effect. Remember one issue Mr Lomborg tends to forget is that Biofuels in the US are becoming far more about energy security than they ever were about the environment.

  3. el gordo March 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    With shale oil coming on the market in abundance, we might indeed ‘wonder at the viability and costing’ of biofuels. Reading through this paper by Crutzen et al. (2007) I’m inclined to give the idea a miss.

    ‘When the extra N2 O emission from biofuel production is calculated in “CO2 -equivalent” global warming terms, and compared with the quasi-cooling effect of “saving” emissions of fossil fuel derived CO2 , the outcome is that the production of commonly used biofuels, such as biodiesel from rapeseed and bioethanol from corn (maize), can contribute as much or more to global warming by N2 O emissions than cooling by fossil fuel savings.’

  4. jim karlock March 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Why not use coal as the feedstock and save a pile of money?

    Or build a dedicated coal to oil plant like sasol ( does?

    For more information google coal to oil.

    Lets restore some of the carbon taken from the atmosphere by ancient forests! (Isn’t restoring the earth about as green as you can get?)


  5. Robert of Ottawa March 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Stuff and nonsense. Wait for the requests for subsidies and government edicted consumption. Also, there are no CO2 issues; CO2 is cool.

  6. kuhnkat March 22, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Sounds like a reasonable alternative. As long as there are no more subsidies than there are for coal and nuke let them take a shot at it. If it is as good as claimed there should be plenty of investors lined up to back them. A little extra laughing gas just might brighten things up!!

    Shaun, I would suggest that instead of arm waves against coal or other proven conventional energy you point out the solid basis and facts behind your products with number heavy comparisons.

  7. Schiller Thurkettle March 22, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    The problem with cellulose > ethanol is the conversion of cellulose to sugar. Very expensive, requires enzymes as an intermediary step. This tech is not mature enough to survive without subsidies.

  8. el gordo March 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    And that is the main point, Schiller. In Europe and the US they are phazing out subsidies and in Australia the government has already taken away any incentive for biofuels to expand.

    The industry will continue to paint a rosy picture on their websites, but at the moment it looks unviable.

    I know Warren Truss is not happy.

  9. el gordo March 23, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    Jatropha biofuels produce six times more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel.

  10. el gordo March 24, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    Biofuels cause starvation says Nestle’s boss.

    Shaun Colley, where exactly is that land which is no good for others forms of agriculture?

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