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Input-Output Conference 2010

Modeling of future biofuel scenarios for Australia

Arunima Malik and Manfred Lenzen

Fossil fuels are the major emitters of greenhouse gases and are used as primary fuel sources in the transportation sector. Transport is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. Our heavy reliance on fossil fuels has not only resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions but also the depletion of oil reserves around the world. Australia's oil self-sufficiency is also rapidly declining, with the country importing over 30% of the oil products. This is projected to increase to 76% by 2030. Consequently, there is a strong need to transition from fossil-fuel based resources to renewable sources such as biofuels with their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security.

This project aims to model future biofuels scenarios for Australia. We will appraise two main scenarios. First, we will assess promising regions in Australia with the potential to sustain a biofuels industry based on forest biomass as feedstock. Second, we will carry out a sustainability analysis of the use of sugarcane biomass grown in Queensland and Northern NSW for fuel production in Australia, and will undertake 'Regional Bio-energy System modelling' to model a sugarcane-based biofuels production industry.

Biofuels industry based on forest biomass: One region of interest for biofuels production is Green triangle; an area of south-east South Australia and south-west Victoria. This region has a well-developed forest industry, the availability of vast land and feedstock and is well connected by rail and road. The purpose of the research is to carry out input-output analysis to evaluate the environmental, economic and social consequences of a biofuels production industry in the Green triangle. This research involves inserting the transport and farm gate cost data into an economic input-output framework implemented in the Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory hosted on a cloud computing environment administered under the NeCTAR scheme. Production Layer Decomposition analysis will be carried out to assess the breakdown of the environmental impacts into contributions from upstream production layers.

Biofuels industry based on sugarcane biomass: The second scenario will involve investigating the sustainable use of the national resource base of the sugarcane industry in Queensland and Northern NSW for fuel production in Australia. Australia is the 3rd-largest raw sugar supplier in the world with a production of 31-32 million tonnes of sugarcane. This provides an ideal platform for investigating sugarcane uses in fuel production. This scenario will involve creating a regional input-output model for quantifying the direct and indirect consequences of a sugarcane based biofuels production industry, in terms of economic, social and environmental impacts regionally and through the supply chains across Australia.

Other possible scenario includes analysing the sustainable performance of algae-based biofuels. Biofuels represent a positive step towards making Australia a sustainable bio-economy. This research will not only fill the knowledge gap about the potential of biofuels for Australia but will also serve as a stepping stone for the development of such industry.

For further information please contact

Dr Arne Geschke
ISA, School of Physics A28
The University of Sydney NSW 2006
+61 (0)2 9036-7505