Virgin Australia to develop biofuel with partners

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Virgin Australia has partnered with Renewable Oil Corporation, Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation and Future Farm Industries Co-operative Research Centre to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel.

The consortium plans to use fast pyrolysis technology developed by Dynamotive to process mallees, a eucalypt tree, said Virgin Australia.

"We believe this new project has great potential given the results with the technology and the availability of this unique Australian feedstock," said the airline's CEO John Borghetti.

The partnership aims to develop a full scale commercial plant in Western Australia, to be operational in 2014. The consortium is currently finalising plans for a demonstration unit, to be ready in 2012, that will make biofuels for testing, certification and public trials.

The Future Farm Industries Co-operative Research Centre, a national research and development joint venture, will lead the commercialisation of mallees.

"Our research shows that mallees can be planted in balance with profitable crop and livestock production in Australia's wheatbelt region. As well as becoming a source of biomass for renewable energy they offer protection from wind erosion, help to avoid dryland salinity and provide improved livestock shelter. They even provide habitat for native birds and mammals," said the research centre's CEO Kevin Goss.

More than 1,000 farmers have planted mallees on their farms, mostly in Western Australia, said the airline.