Industry News

Biofuels, a forgotten solution to our National Fuel Reserve Crisis

According to Bioenergy Australia, there are alarming reports continue to emerge regarding Australia’s low emergency fuel reserves and how it makes us “vulnerable” and creates a critical national security issue.

The organisation said that Australia is languishing behind other nations in fuel independence and security and has been named as the least prepared developed nation to deal with a crisis. Latest figures produced by the Department of Energy show stockpiles at the end of October 2018 were 27 days total petroleum products, 22 days of petrol and 17 days of diesel.

Bioenergy Australia stated that the risks associated with transportation fuel security were first rung by air vice-marshal John Blackburn AO (Ret’d) in his NRMA reports in 2013 and 2014. In addition, it said that in 2015 a Senate Inquiry showed Australia was desperately short of its 90-day emergency fuel reserve supplies, required as a member of the International Energy Association (IEA).

“With the decline in domestic refining in Australia and the closure of three refineries in the last decade, Australia has been left with four refineries in operation and the majority of fuel being imported,” said Shahan McKenzie, Bioenergy Australia CEO.

“Australia would be exposed to catastrophic challenges should there be disruptions to the main shipping line to Australia. This could occur for a range of reasons, including geopolitical issues in the region or a natural disaster. This is an issue of national security and biofuels must be considered as part of the solution.”

The production of biofuels in Australia can help diversify the sources of transportation fuels and decrease Australia’s reliance on petroleum imports. A recent report from Queensland University of Technology showed that a simple E10 national mandate would represent an 18 per cent decrease on imported fuels.

Biofuels are created from waste organic matter and can be blended with petroleum, diesel and jet fuel with significant positive impacts on the environment, reduced health impacts through reducing air particulate matter, increased jobs through regional development and enhanced fuel security through reduced reliance on imported fuels.

Technology developments are now allowing drop in 100 per cent replaceable fuels to be created, from feed stocks such as municipal waste and sewerage waste to fuel.

According to Bioenergy Australia, biofuels are not just relevant for land transport, bio-jet is a significant area of growth globally. As an example, the demand for jet fuel is increasing annually in line with the international growth of the international aviation sector and consumer demand.

Australia has consistently had to manage issues relating to aviation jet fuel supply and availability. As an example, in 2016 Melbourne airport experienced a severe jet fuel shortage following disruptions to jet fuel deliveries from a number of terminals across the city. Less than two million litres of aviation fuel were available at the country’s second busiest airport, meaning that less than 10 Boeing A380 planes had enough fuel for a long-haul flight.

Currently, Australia imports approximately 93 per cent of its commercial jet fuel and we hold approximately 20 days of fuel in store. This should be considered a significant concern for the security, reliability and operations of our airports, industries, tourism and international image.

An ideal solution to deal with our fuel security, supply and access would be for both sides of government to support the development of a local biofuels industry in Australia and commit to the development of a National Strategy and roadmap to develop the industry.

“Currently, Australia lags well behind other nations in production of biofuels and the receipt of its knock-on benefits,” McKenzie said.

“A local biofuels industry could create over 8,000 direct and indirect jobs, contribute over $1.1 billion annually to regional communities, reduce particulate matter in our air by 26 per cent and reduce our reliance on important fuel by 18 per cent.

“Biofuels should be above politics. A local industry would create jobs, enhance fuel security, support waste reduction strategies and build stronger regional economies. It would also provide significant environmental and health benefits.”