Following Brisbane trial, Gevo secures Australian funding towards sustainable aviation fuel evaluation project
(photo: Brisbane Airport)
Fri 20 Mar 2020 – Colorado-based renewable jet fuel producer Gevo has secured funding from the Queensland government to support the assessment of a waste-to-biofuel project in the Australian state. The Queensland Waste to Biofutures (W2B) Fund provides targeted funding for pilot, demonstration or commercially scalable biorefinery projects that use conventional waste streams or biomass to produce bioenergy, biofuels and high-value bioproducts. The award follows an initiative Gevo took part in to supply aircraft at Brisbane Airport with blended sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) through the airport’s general fuel supply system. Gevo’s participation in the trial, which completed last year and also involved Virgin Australia and the Queensland government, has led to the state being considered as the location for the company’s first biorefinery outside of the United States.
“Queensland is rich in renewable biomass resources and has expressed the desire to invest in the future of biofuels,” said Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO. “This opportunity opens the door for the development of a project that not only supplies low-carbon gasoline to Queensland, but also the possibility to supply commercial quantities of second-generation SAF to Brisbane Airport, expanding upon our demonstrations of SAF supply to commercial airlines like those conducted with Virgin Australia.”
Speaking at the Bio Based Aviation and Marine Fuels Summit, Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Cameron Dick, said: “The Queensland government is excited to be supporting Gevo’s research collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology to turn Queensland sugarcane waste and wood waste into SAF.
“Gevo has recognised that Queensland is the place to be when it comes to the future of biofuels and we look forward to an ongoing partnership which has the potential to bring even more business to Queensland as the demand for biofuels grows. In addition to offering environmental benefits by reducing the carbon footprint of plane travel, this project will also help position Queensland as a world-leading location for investment in the manufacture and distribution of this fuel in the global bioproducts and services market.”
Gevo’s process involves fractionating grain from sustainably produced crops to produce protein and animal feed while using the residual carbohydrate portion of the grain for fermentation to produce isobutanol. This is then chemically transformed using a hydrocarbon processing facility into renewable gasoline, diesel and SAF. As well as substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the company says its SAF has very low sulphur, low particulates and a slightly higher energy density than petroleum-based jet fuel.
Gevo says the Queensland project will evaluate the most likely second-generation biomass to carbohydrate conversion process to use in conjunction with its process.
The Queensland W2B Fund provided A$5 million ($2.9m) on an up to 50% co-funding basis in 2019 to support projects in the state.
Since the funding announcement, Gevo has signed a Heads of Agreement with energy company and Shell fuels supplier Viva Energy Australia. They will work together to establish the technical and commercial feasibility of converting regionally-sourced biomass into renewable carbons, including SAF.
“Viva Energy is a key player in the Australian energy industry, with a refinery, more than 20 import terminals and supplies more than 1,260 service stations across the country,” said Gruber. “Through their terminals in Brisbane and as the JV operator of the Brisbane Airport hydrant system, we have worked with them on several occasions to supply SAF to Queensland-based flights.
“We are now advancing beyond just talk and demonstration of SAF, such that this agreement and collaborative partnership will not only strengthen our development efforts in Queensland but will also go a long way in making renewable jet fuel and gasoline a reality in Australia.”