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The race to develop commercially viable biofuels for the aviation industry has been everything from algae to coconut oil proposed as potential feedstocks. Now Virgin Australia, proudly flying the nationalist flag, has announced its intention to experiment with indigenous eucalyptus oil as a potential biofuel feedstock, striking terror in the hearts of koalas everywhere.
A commercial scale plant supplying Virgin Australia with eucalyptus oil aviation fuel could be operational by 2014, the airline announced. Virgin Australia in conjunction with three partners has developed plans for a demonstration refinery in Western Australia for next year, with full scale production to begin in 2014.
The consortium plans to use pyrolysis technology developed by Canadian firm Dynamotive to process mallees, a variety of eucalyptus tree that can be grown in many parts of Australia, for the feedstock.
Over the last ten years Dynamotive has invested $100 million in developing a commercial pyrolysis process in Canada, which uses heat and oxygen-less conditions to turn dry, waste cellulose biomass into bio-oil, which can then be refined into vehicle fuel.
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said, “We believe this new project has great potential given the results with the technology and the availability of this unique Australian feedstock. It is also particularly attractive to Virgin Australia because it aligns with our commitment to supporting the Australian economy and environment, and encouraging Australian innovation.”
By. Charles Kennedy, Deputy Editor OilPrice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com