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Big Australia Is Back: Oz’s ARENA, China’s JTL Go Big with a Cellulosic Biofuels Bet

Submitted by on December 6, 2017 – 3:37 pmNo Comment

by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest)  … (T)he Australian Renewable Energy Agency has made its single largest direct investment in second-generation biofuels via $11.9M in funding support for Ethtec to complete the development and demonstration of its advanced biofuel production technology.

But times are changing in Muswellbrook, and accelerated in that respect with news that Muswellbrook Shire will be the site (and an investment partner) of this Big Investment in cellulosic ethanol from ARENA – doubled down by a matching investment from China’s JTL.

Big project?Hardly, it’s still completing pilot phase. But Australia’s back to dreaming big with a technology that could deploy over 30-50 locations, and working on road transport emissions, which are a far more challenging problem and worthy of public investment than greening electrons.

Now, dreaming big and achieving big are two different things. So, let’s go through the project and the whole true story. There’s quite a backstory to this one.

We’ve been following the Queensland-based Ethtec – or Ethanol Technologies Limited – for more than a decade.  It’s an international technology story that dates back at least to 2007. the hydrolysis and fermentation technology was developed in collaboration with the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of New South Wales, and Apace Research Limited also contributed IP. Willmott Forests made an early0stage investment into the company to catalyze the phase 1 pilot, before Willmott itself collapsed in 2010 as Australia’s timber industry tanked.

But there’s been good news for the cellulosic technology out of the NQBE project, after all. As NQBE chairman Robert Carey noted to shareholders:

“After a number of false starts and disappointments with other EPC contractors,” he added, “[Jiangsu Jintongling Fluid Machinery Technology Co., Ltd ] were chosen because of their manufacturing capability and their vast experience as EPC contractors in the power generation industry in China. JTL is a publicly listed (not State owned) company on the Chinese Stock Exchange and the company’s chairman, Mr Ji, has been personally involved in the negotiations.”

So, arriveth JTL, which we noted was the strategic investor matching ARENA’s grant for the Ethtec pilot plant.

JTL is Jiangsu Jintongling Fluid Machinery Technology Company Limited.

But it’s a significant step forward for ARENA as well. It’s been so focused on green power at the expense of green transport fuels that one wag dubbed the agency AGRIPPA (Australian Green Power is Pulling Politicians Astray).

But, here is a grown-up investment tackling a pressing Aussie problem: Australia’s long-term emissions problems are rooted in transport — air and road — it’s a big country and its vast regional geography produces the foundation of Australia’s economy in the form of mining, energy and agriculture. 40 percent of Australian emissions relate back to road and air transport using liquid fuels.

As Dr. Hewson noted, “There has been a lot of publicity around electricity security lately but what many people don’t realize is that oil is responsible for around 40% of Australia’s energy use, and this announcement makes it clear that ARENA is committed to funding the development of renewable transportation fuels as a means to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.”

We’ll look for progress or transparency on yields and hope that the high-cost of the pilot means low costs for the project and company going forward. Meanwhile, it’s ARENA’s biggest public biofuels investment to date, and that is a good sign.  READ MORE

Biofuel from crop waste lands funding boost for newly-proven sustainable technology (ABC News)

Australian Researchers Work to Develop Sustainable Biofuel Technology (Renewable Energy Magazine)

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