Mallee tree belts on a Western Australian wheatbelt farm (Photo: Cliff Winfield)

Airline operations from Perth could see flights fueled up to 100% with an aviation grade bio kerosene made from young mallee trees grown and processed in Western Australia’s Great Southern district by 2030 according to report published today by the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Centre (CRC).

The report says such a non-fossil carbon sourced fuel value chain could  be sustainable and give a boost to potential new regional industries.

The mallee jet fuel sustainability and life-cycle assessment study – produced with funding from Airbus and support from industry partners Virgin Australia, Renewable Oil Corporation, Dynamotive and IFPEN – provides enough evidence to support continued R&D on mallee production and bio-oil upgrading, and to inform the business case for commercial production starting in WA.

It will be posted on the Future Farm Industries website later today, coinciding with the holding of a forum on the report’s methodologies and findings in Perth.

The overall reduction of fossil released carbon emissions from aircraft entirely fueled by the process described in report would be a drop of 40 percent compared to current petroleum based Jet 1-A fuel, or a fall of 20 percent if aircraft were fueled 50:50 with a bio fuel/fossil fuel blend.

The report tactfully avoids much by way of references to the benefits of carbon trading, or offset schemes, which reward airlines or indeed other enterprises that use bio fuel replacements with financial incentives.

The Australian economy’s current account would benefit from the replacing of fossil fuel imports with a home grown alternative.

The mallee jet fuel value chain report says that:

The current cost for fuel derived from mallee biomass is too high for jet fuel derived from this source to be competitive with petroleum based fuel. However there is international evidence that these costs are converging.

Mallee biomass could be cost competitive by 2021.

Further technological innovation and productivity gains can be reasonably assumed, and capital and operating costs will reduce as the value chain scales up.

Which is another way of saying the unit costs can be expected to fall as the price of oil rises.

The report finds that the growing and harvesting of young growth mallee will not interfere with either food (wheat) crops or groundwater sources.

It envisages a harvest cycle of as little as six years starting with new mallee plantings in 2021.

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