27 June 2011

Two of the world’s leading research universities, The University of Queensland (UQ) and Clemson University in the USA have signed a research agreement today that will result in invaluable collaboration in biofuels research and development.

Together, UQ and Clemson will pursue public and private funding to advance biofuel (including ethanol and biodiesel) research, commercialisation, and large-scale biofuel production.

UQ Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Greenfield, said the need for alternatives such as biofuels has become an essential part of an environmentally suitable future.

“The development of clean fuels for the future is one of the most urgent challenges facing society due to the need to address climate change and secure fuel supplies,” Professor Greenfield said.

“UQ is working with industry and government partners around the world to pioneer advanced generation biofuels that will improve global transportation systems and this partnership with Clemson University will further this goal.”

Speaking at the signing in Washington DC, Director of commercialisation and technology incubation at Clemson University, Karl Kelly, said the collaboration will foster the evolution of invaluable new energy strategies.

“Joint research will focus on how to provide new fuels that will enable energy independence, development of novel technologies for biofuel production, and how best to produce ‘green’ and readily available fuels to secure economic development in South Carolina and Queensland,” Mr Kelly said.

”Along with a substantial investment in research and development, Clemson and UQ will ensure technology transfer, training and commercialisation projects are given a high priority.”

Australian-based research will be carried out under the banner of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), an Institute of UQ.

QAAFI Director, Professor Robert Henry, said both universities have impressive track records in biofuels research.

“This collaboration will enable some of the world’s best biofuels scientists to get new processing capacity and new biofuels out into the marketplace,” Professor Henry said.

“UQ and Clemson will push the boundaries of biofuels development with alternative energy concepts that will benefit both Queensland and South Carolina.”

According to Mr Kelly, research currently being undertaken by Clemson in conjunction with Savannah River National Laboratory has already made great progress, with sought-after *cellulosic bioenergy technologies almost at the ‘proof-of-concept’ stage.

“Our research efforts to date with Savannah River National Laboratory have produced excellent results during bench-scale tests of new technology that is able to convert switch grass and sweet sorghum to ethanol. Private partners and future markets for potential product development and use are already being sought after,” Mr Kelly said.

“And, research in this area using coastal loblolly pine is also progressing well.”

This cellulosic bioenergy technology research knowledge will soon be applied to Australian sugarcane as part of the new partnership.

A summary of immediate opportunities of the partnership is listed below.

UQ /Clemson University partnership scope
• Switch grass and sweet sorghum to ethanol — Clemson will provide comprehensive access to information developed for conversion of sugarcane bagasse to ethanol.
• Ethanol pilot-scale demonstration funding — Clemson and UQ will develop and pilot a sugarcane to ethanol process in Queensland using residual sugarcane bagasse.
• Cellulosic conversion to biodiesel technology — Clemson and UQ will develop cellulosic technologies for the production of biodiesel. This process, in early developmental phases, has the potential to convert cellulose from multiple feedstock sources to a ready biodiesel for military, mining, industrial and personal transportation applications.

* Cellulosic biofuel technology uses the structural part of the plant (the cell walls) to develop biofuels, such as ethanol, and biodiesel. It takes advantage of the untapped energy in the largely non-edible parts of plant, ie sugarcane or sorghum, and uses this to produce fuel.

For more information please contact Julie Lloyd, QAAFI Communications Manager, 0415 799 890.