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New Zealand

Researchers want to build New Zealand’s biofuel industry

The Rotorua company hopes to end the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. (Document photo)
Photo: 123 RF

New Zealand could produce its own biofuel within the next five years.

Scion, a research institute based in Rotorua, hopes to end the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels by establishing a bioenergy industry here.

Integrated Bioenergy Portfolio Leader Paul Bennett said his team has already made significant progress.

“We are looking at ways to convert [organic materials] Whether solid, liquid or gaseous, it converts it into useful energy products.

“We can produce liquids from wood, and those liquids are getting closer and closer to the types of fuels currently in use on the market.”

Scion’s wood-based aviation fuel is the most promising product and likely to hit the market first, Bennett said.

“Liquid biofuels from wood, for example, can reduce CO2 emissions by 85%,” he says, which could also bring significant economic benefits.

“With energy security issues around the world right now, it would be very beneficial for New Zealand to become more independent in terms of energy production.

“Because we don’t have an oil refinery, we buy all our products [from overseas],” He said.

“If we can make our products here in New Zealand, there will be a knock-on effect in terms of national and regional GDP and employment.”

Sustainability didn’t come cheap, but Bennett believed that would change.

“It is currently more expensive than fossil fuels, but experience shows that using newer technologies can result in significant cost savings over time.

“Also, carbon prices are trending higher, which will help in terms of cost comparisons with fossil fuels.”

Other countries were already investing in biofuels.

“There are parts of the world that are currently building factories to produce aviation fuel from woody biomass, and New Zealand is probably considering importing the technology.

In fact, some New Zealanders are already taking advantage of innovative new fuels they may not even know about.

“Air New Zealand has imported biofuels this year,” Bennett said.

“They’ve been blending those biofuels into the regular jet fuel they use, so on certain routes, when you get on Air New Zealand planes, you’re flying on biofuel.”

Bennett expected Scion’s aviation fuel to hit the market within the next five years.

But the boat was a tougher nut to crack.

“On marine fuels, they’re slightly behind,” Bennett said.

“If all goes well, I think it will probably take six to seven years before the work we are doing becomes commercially viable.”

Cruises, ferries, and cargo ships have made boat fuel as dangerous to the environment as airborne fuel.

“The same amount of CO2 is emitted from the marine sector as is emitted from the aviation sector,” Bennett said.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/business/481784/researchers-hope-to-build-new-zealand-s-biofuel-industry Researchers want to build New Zealand’s biofuel industry

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