FREMANTLE was a hive of activity last week for the 2006 Bioenergy Australia Conference held at the E

14 Dec, 2006 07:00 PM
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Industry leaders and guests gave speeches on topics relating to bioenergy and various projects that organisations were undertaking to enhance the production and use of the renewable energy resources Australia produces abundantly.

The topics included biodiesel, its use and continued adoption by primary industries and transport companies.

Oil companies were encouraged to contribute more by investing in its production and use.

The production of biomass for the use of electricity and fuel was also on the agenda and appeared to be gaining support from consumers in Victoria with more than 140,000 people in the state signing up to use green power out of a total of 345,000 people nationally.

From a WA perspective it appeared that there would be more opportunities for growers to invest in the future of bioenergy, but the state needed a strong farmer cooperative to drive the issue forward.

WA Agriculture Minister Kim Chance opened the conference and gave his support to the growing industry.

He said the world economy was highly dependent on fossil energy, with the majority of that energy coming from the finite resources of coal, oil and natural gas.

³I believe it is time we moved forward towards renewable energy alternatives,² Mr Chance said.

³The future of bioenergy rests in the intersection of agriculture, forestry and energy production.²

Mr Chance said there was no doubt that high oil, petrol and natural gas prices, together with the issues of global warming, had driven some of the most fossil fuel-prone consumers and policymakers to take a hard look at new clean energy technologies.

³Policy changes are already being enacted internationally, highlighting the importance of these concerns,² Mr Chance said.

He said that in the US, government agencies were ordered to modify and coordinate their programs to promote a tri-fold increase in the amount of bio-based products and bioenergy produced by 2010.

³There is the real possibility that an amount of corn to equal the current US crop of 11 billion bushels will be consumed for ethanol production just to meet these policy needs,² Mr Chance said.

Mr Chance said technological innovation would make bioenergy more affordable to consumers and bring improvements to quality of life.

³The Western Australian Government is committed to a bioenergy future,² he said.

³In this state we have abundant biomass available from our sustainably managed native forests, plantations, farms and waste management industry.

³The Premier recently signalled the government¹s intention to release a climate change action plan that will include strategies to increase the use of renewable and low-emission power technologies.

³It will set out how the community, business and government can prepare for climate change and how we can all play our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.²

Mr Chance said the plan would be released in the first quarter of 2007 and include a renewable energy target for 2020.

The WA Biofuels Taskforce is also due to give its report to Mr Chance in the New Year with ideas and aspirations for the industry in WA.

Taskforce chairman Graham Gifford said the report would not be all things to all people, but a pathway forward for government and sectors.

Mr Gifford said the biofuels industry needed to stand alone and in WA it had a key advantage over its competitors with key grains cheaper to purchase than in other states, but it would take consistent research and development.

He said the government could assist with infrastructure and by working with car manufacturers to improve the use of biofuels, but the key to growth was consumer acceptance.

³There are areas for growth in regional areas where communities can produce their own biofuels,² Mr Gifford said.

³We could supply a local biofuels industry; wheat would be a significant crop for ethanol and canola for biodiesel.

³Seven hundred and fifty million tonnes per annum would be enough to meet the needs on a state level.²

Bioenergy Australia manager Stephen Schuck presented a bioenergy 101 lesson for those who were new to the industry and said biomass came from agricultural and forestry residues, a portion of urban wastes, sewage and manures, purpose-grown woody energy crops, oilseed and starch crops, woody weeds and processing wastes.

He discussed the various types of biomass plants needed to produce bioenergy from the different products and what projects were underway around the rest of the world.

Among a variety of presentations was one from Verve Energy environmental scientist Don Harrison, who presented a study on integrated wood processing from research undertaken at Verve Energy¹s demonstration plant in Narrogin, where renewable electricity, oil and carbon products were produced from farm-grown mallee trees.

Dr Harrison said due to salinity and climate change, mallee trees had been planted along contour lines on farms throughout WA in an effort to stop the spread of saline land and make a difference to the environment.

He said these trees could be used for the production of sustainable energy and agriculture, and its energy was as good or better than any low-emission options available.

The study proved to be a success and revealed the way forward for the company in its biofuels production.

Dr Harrison said salinity threatened 30pc of WA¹s agricultural land, including 450 plant species and 30,000km of roads.

He said rainfall had decreased in the state since 1975 and run-off into damns had halved.

³It is quite disastrous for agriculture,² Dr Harrison said.

³It could result in a lot of agricultural areas just closing down.²

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