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Raising the temperature for more on-farm biodiesel production

Published:19 May 2015

ARS Lead Scientist Dr Akwasi Boateng with Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath from CQUniversity.

Aussie scientists have established fresh links with counterparts in the USA to explore the potential of a high-temperature ‘farm-scale’ process (known as pyrolysis) to break down waste organic materials into biofuels.

The pyrolysis furnace inputs could range from specially-grown Beauty Leaf tree fruits, to general crop and timber wastes, to anything organic (even cow dung).

CQUniversity has signed up for long-term collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), with laboratory research focused on the USDA-Agricultural Research Services (ARS) pyrolysis facility in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, USA.

Rockhampton-based Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath is heading to Wyndmoor in July to extend work alongside Dr Akwasi Boateng from ARS. Longer-term there is potential for research staff and student exchanges, joint student supervision and broader research collaborations.

“The idea is to convert organic materials into biooils and then upgrade the resulting biooil into biodiesel and even aviation fuels,” Dr Ashwath says.
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“For example, with Beauty Leaf tree fruits, crushing alone only releases a portion of the potential oil, whereas a full thermochemical process gets most of the available energy from the fruits.
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“A useful by-product is also the biochar which can be used to improve soil health and avoid leaching of nutrients into the Great Barrier Reef."
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Dr Ashwath says biofuel projects are becoming less competitive due to a significant drop in crude oil prices.
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"Utilisation of biofuel industry by-products is therefore crucial to enhance net gains from biofuel projects," he says.
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"This agreement helps researchers investigate other ways of recovering energy from biodiesel feedstocks."
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Details on On-Farm Pyrolysis Processing of Biofuels are available at http://bit.ly/1EgyI8M