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Australian biofuel technology set to power US Navy fleet

US Navy plans to have fleet of warships running on biofuels by 2016

The US Navy is planning to use biofuel technology to power its fleet
The US Navy is planning to use biofuel technology to power its fleet

Biofuel technology being developed by Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers has caught the interest of the US Navy, the University has announced. The US Navy, which visited QUT this week on a fact-finding mission, intends to have a fleet of warships known as the "Great Green Fleet" running on biofuels by 2016. By 2020 it plans to run half of its entire fleet on alternative fuels. QUT's Professor Sagadevan Mundree said the Australia institution is the only one in the country capable of demonstrating a diverse range of waste to biofuel technologies at the pilot scale.

QUT’s Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant has been operational for over 14 months. It converts cellulosic biomass into renewable transport fuels (bioethanol) and high value biocommodities in an integrated biorefinery.

The plant is “unique in that most biofuel research and development in Australia is taking place at a lab-scale level”, said Mundree. “However, we have the opportunity of taking biofuel technology from the concept stage to the pilot stage in a very short space of time"

The US Navy has announced they require 80,000 barrels of biofuel for the Green Fleet voyage in 2016.

"We have considerable capability to develop technologies that could potentially be delivered by industry partners to satisfy a significant portion of that requirement," Mundree said.

Researchers at the pilot plant are already working with a number of Australian and international industry partners (including global agri-business Syngenta, Leaf Energy, The Biofuels Partnership and Mackay Sugar) to develop and demonstrate technologies that can turn agricultural waste, such as bagasse from sugarcane, into biofuels.

“So far we have produced several thousand litres of biodiesel from waste agricultural oils," Mundree said.