THE United States Navy’s Director for Operational Energy today visited The University of Queensland for discussions on UQ’s world-leading biofuels research.
As the US Department of Defense actively pursues ambitious targets and new “green” fuel sources for its energy requirements, the US Navy’s Chris Tindal met biofuels researchers and industry leaders at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at UQ in Brisbane.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry welcomed Mr Tindal, saying his visit to UQ was a credit to UQ researchers who are making advances in areas including new-generation “drop-in” biofuels.
“Drop-in biofuels are physically or chemically identical to traditional fossil fuels, and suit existing distribution networks and engines,” she said. “Much of our leading-edge research and development is focused in this area.
“Teams of scientists, engineers and economists at UQ are expanding knowledge and technology in biofuels that are based on a range of feedstocks, including sugar cane, algae, eucalypts and the oily seeds of a tree known as pongamia.
“Their work is enhanced by links with international and Australian partners and collaborators, including leaders in aviation, air travel and energy; innovative biofuels manufacturers; feedstock producers; and renowned research institutions.”
Both the Queensland and Australian governments have provided funding to foster UQ biofuels research, and UQ is establishing a multidisciplinary UQ Biofuels Initiative aimed at accelerating biofuels production in Australia
Professor Chris Greig, director of UQ’s Energy Initiative, said the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative was a key part of the UQ Biofuels Initiative. With significant backing from the Queensland Smart State program, this research was being undertaken at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at UQ.
“This program is a collaboration between the AIBN, the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, the Queensland Alliance for Agricultural and Food Innovation, the Centre for Integrative Legume Research, James Cook University, Boeing, Virgin Australia, IOR Energy, Amyris and Mackay Sugar,” Professor Greig said.
AIBN Systems and Synthetic Biology Group business manager Dr Robert Speight said the aviation fuel research had a clear focus on “delivering real benefits to Queensland”.
“Microbial fermentation is used to turn sucrose from sugarcane into advanced biofuel,” Dr Speight said. “AIBN researchers are applying systems and synthetic biology to improve the microbes as well as assessing the technical and economic potential of applying the technology in Queensland.
“The overall aim of this multi-stage program is to enable commercial manufacture of biofuel from Queensland sugarcane, supply the aviation fuel market in Australasia and help seed a strong and sustainable domestic advanced biofuel industry.”
The next step for the initiative is to evaluate commercial viability and continue to enhance the fermentation process, Dr Speight said.
The Royal Australian Navy’s Environment Manager, Commander Steve Cole, accompanied Mr Tindal on his visit to UQ today.
The US Navy has made a commitment that by 2020, at least half of all Navy energy, afloat and ashore, will come from renewable sources.
In his State of the Union address two weeks ago, President Barack Obama outlined the Navy’s energy security goals, including its commitment to consume one gigawatt of new, renewable energy on its naval installations.
"I'm proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world's largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history - with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year," the President said.
Dr Rob Speight, AIBN, ph 0451 181 664
Erik de Wit, AIBN Communications, ph 07 3346 3962
Fiona Cameron, UQ Office of Marketing and Communications, ph 07 3846 7086
Jan King, UQ Office of Marketing and Communications, ph 0413 601 248