Brisbane Airport will become a trial biojet refuelling port under a new agreement between Virgin Australia and US-based renewable fuel producer Gevo Inc.
Under the new agreement, announced last week, the two companies will trial sustainable aviation fuel through Brisbane Airport’s fuel supply system.
The biojet, which comes from sources such as sugarcane bagasse, molasses and wood waste, will be blended with traditional jet fuel and supplied to flights departing Brisbane over the next two years.
The initiative marks the first time in Australia that biojet will be supplied through an airport’s regular fuel supply system and the first time in the world that biojet produced using the alcohol-to-jet process will be supplied to an airport’s regular fuel supply system.
Virgin Australia Group CEO John Borghetti said the trial built on Virgin Australia’s commitment to be a leader in the commercialisation of the sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia.
‘The agreement announced today is critical to testing the fuel supply chain infrastructure in Australia to ensure that Virgin Australia and Brisbane Airport are ready for the commercial supply of these exciting fuels,’ Mr Borghetti said.
Virgin will coordinate the purchase, supply and blending of the fuels, working closely with Gevo, Brisbane Airport Corporation, the Queensland Government, and other stakeholders.
Gevo CEO Dr Patrick Gruber said that although his company would initially supply jet fuel from its US-based production plants, there would be significant opportunities for production in Queensland in the longer term.
‘When I visited Queensland last year for the Biofutures Industry Forum, I discovered the depth and diversity of your agriculture sector,’ Dr Gruber said.
‘We believe Queensland offers huge potential for low-cost sugar feedstocks to produce biofuels.’
Premier Annastacia Palaczszuk said that biofuels were a key element of the Queensland Government’s Biofutures Roadmap, and the biojet trial was another step towards a biofuels industry for the state.
‘To get up and running, industrial-scale biorefineries need a critical mass of customers to supply,’ she said.
‘That’s why it’s vital to get big industries like aviation and defence on board as potential customers.’
Work on using biojet as a complementary fuel source to conventional jet aviation fuel has been underway for more than a decade, and the fuel is now being supplied at airports at Oslo and Los Angeles, including on Virgin Australia’s services from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Biofutures is one of the emerging industries identified in the Queensland Trade and Investment Strategy 2017–2022.