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Australian Renewable Energy Agency awarding US$9M to Ethtec cellulosic ethanol project

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is awarding $11.9 million (US$9 million) in funding for Australian biofuel company Ethanol Technologies Limited (Ethtec) to complete the development and demonstration of its advanced biofuel technology. As part of a $48-million (US$36.5 million) project, Ethtec aims to construct a $30-million (US$23-million) purpose-built pilot-scale facility based in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA’s funding will go towards the completion of the pilot demonstration plant which will produce ethanol from a range of non-food waste plant matter left over from crop harvesting and forestry.

Ethtec has developed an innovative and cost-effective approach to production of bioethanol from a range of waste or low-value lignocellulosic biomass including sugarcane bagasse, forestry residues and cotton gin trash.

In our pilot plant we convert lignocellulosic biomass feedstocks to sugars in solution, which are then fermented to ethanol and other biorenewable products. This pre-commercial facility can process around two dry tonnes of feedstock per day and is used to generate the engineering data required to construct commercial scale plants.

The pilot plant project is about developing the engineering data for the process, to ensure that it is commercially viable. We know you can take lignocellulosic waste streams, convert them to sugars and then convert those sugars into biofuels or green chemicals, but it’s got to be commercially competitive with products derived from crude oil.

—Andrew Reeves, Ethtec’s senior research engineer

Dr. Tony Banks, Ethtec’s senior research chemist, said that the Ethtec technology can be implemented across multiple sectors because it can process any lignocellulosic feedstock, including mixed feedstocks. “For this industry to be commercially viable, the technology must be able to deal with real world feedstocks.

Demand for ethanol in Australia is expected to increase by approximately 500 million liters each year over the period to 2030, with mandates in Queensland and New South Wales. All of Australia’s ethanol is currently first-generation, sourced from wheat and sugarcane, while second-generation ethanol is derived from inedible plant waste.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the next phases of the project were important in making advanced biofuels a viable option to support emission reduction for the transport sector.

Ethtec’s Chief Scientist Dr Russell Reeves said ARENA’s support was pivotal to the project, which has also secured $11.9 million in matching funding from industry partner Jiangsu Jintongling Fluid Machinery Technology Company Limited.

The facility will partner with researchers from the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources at the University of Newcastle and is also receiving support from Muswellbrook Shire Council.


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