“YOU WON’T WIN THE TRIATHLON WITHOUT A BIKE”
“YOU WON’T WIN THE RACE,
COMPETING IN A TRIATHLON
WITHOUT A BIKE”
Australia needs to be doing much more to encourage a local renewable fuel industry if we are going to transition away from carbon-intensive diesel, according to one of Australia’s most experienced private sector players in the renewable energy and emissions reduction space.
"Without a renewable fuel industry, we simply cannot achieve #NetCarbonZero. It's like competing in a triathlon without a bike,” said Jennifer Lauber Patterson, Managing Director of Frontier Impact Group.
Ms Lauber Patterson has been working in the carbon reduction and renewable energy space for more than 25 years and is pioneering a home-grown renewable diesel industry for Australia. She acknowledges a critical place for electrification and use of green hydrogen in transport but says they are not the full solution.
“Just like swimming and running are key legs of a triathlon, hydrogen and electrification are both important. They need to be included in the race, encouraged and incentivized by government but they are not the complete picture.
“If we’re competing in the Net Zero race, at an international level, we need to prepare and train for all three legs of the race. It just makes common sense!” she said.
“Before we can even start training for the cycling leg, we need to invest in a good bike.
“We might be the best runners or swimmers in the world but without a bike, we probably won’t even finish, let alone win the race!” Ms Lauber Patterson said.
“Powering heavy vehicles on farms, and industrial equipment in remote mine locations will not be easily addressed by hydrogen or electric options, particularly in the next few decades.
“Electrification and hydrogen are no silver bullet, particularly for industries in regional and remote Australia with hard-to-abate emissions, such as mining, agriculture, long-haul transport and aviation,” she said.
Ms Lauber Patterson is helping Australian policymakers, in government and corporate, understand the central role of renewable liquid fuels in the energy transition, explaining why they are essential elements in the transition to Net Carbon Zero over the next few decades.
Her biorefinery development business, Renuleum, is pioneering a local renewable diesel industry for Australia, focused on decarbonising industries that are heavily reliant on diesel. According to the Australian Government’s National Greenhouse Accounts (2019) carbon-intensive fuels, such as diesel, account for around 17% of our carbon footprint. Mining, agriculture, and long-haul transport are heavily reliant on fossil fuel-derived diesel for both transport and electricity because it is cost-effective, energy-dense and easily transportable.
ON A MISSION TO CLEAR UP CONFUSION
There is great confusion in Australia in understanding the different types of renewable diesels, including Biodiesel, HVO and Renuleum. Ms Lauber Patterson says she is “on a mission to clear up the confusion” around these renewable liquid fuels.
Biodiesel – Many Australians have heard of biodiesel, made from oily feedstocks, such as canola and animal fats because it’s been produced here since the late 90s. It’s met with varying degrees of success because it needs to be blended and may require additional capital investment to upgrade vehicles, machines and equipment. However, it will continue to play a niche role in the market.
Renewable Diesel – Renewable diesel is a largely unknown quantity in Australia because it hasn’t been available in Australia.
“When environmentally conscious people hear words like ‘renewable’ alongside ‘diesel’ in the same sentence, many are surprised. They think it’s not a possibility - an oxymoron. It’s actually a vital part of the energy transition needed to reach Net Carbon Zero,” she said.
There are two main types of renewable diesel: HVO (Hydrated vegetable oil) that utilises oily/fatty feedstocks and technologies that use lignocellulosic biomass. The two different types of processes are both important as long as they use sustainable feedstocks and have a strong social licence. The renewable diesel sector is conscious of this and being made accountable through many criteria such as the measure of emissions on a life cycle analysis to ensure the project full carbon impact is fully considered.
HVO has been sold as 'renewable diesel' in Europe, USA and other countries for quite a few years but hasn’t been available in Australia. It is made by hydrotreating vegetable oils and animal fats, using hydrogen and catalysts, at high temperatures. The process has been providing a value add for waste inputs such as used cooking oil but HVO alone will have challenges to find enough sustainable feedstock to fulfill growing market demand. As long as it is utilising sustainable feedstocks it is an important element of the renewable diesel group.
There are a number of companies that are developing technologies utilising Lognocellulousic feedstock. This includes Frontier Impact group’s preferred technology that we refer to as “Renuleum” but there are other developers making progress including Licella and Lanzajet. The benefit of these technologies is that they can utilise lignocellulosic biomass residues, that are often buried or burnt.
In terms of Renuleum, it is a 3rd generation renewable diesel being developed in Australia from lignocellulosic biomass residues, our focus is to source feedstocks that are sustainably sourced from farms, forestry and industry and converted to fuel using a patented high-temperature pyrolysis process. There is also the opportunity to grow sustainable feedstock such as oil mallee that can be grown in shelter belt strips and can be positive for land regeneration.
Renuleum has the advantage of being produced in a renewable biorefinery that is modular, small enough to be close to the source of the biomass, reducing transport costs of biomass which would otherwise challenge the economics on these projects.
In addition to the abundance of sustainably sourced biomass, the best feature of Renuleum is it is 100% drop-in.
“It is a direct substitute for fossil fuel-derived diesel and can be used in any vehicle, engine or motor without blending and absolutely no need for further capital expenditure!” she said.
“That not only makes it as a complementary option to HVO, but makes it a game-changer, in terms of its sustainability credentials and for those ‘hard to abate’ carbon-intensive diesel emissions,” Ms Lauber Patterson concluded.
Frontier Impact Group has a JV with Carnarvon Energy Ltd in Western Australia, referred to as Future Energy Australia, that aims to deliver the first renewable diesel project in Narrogin in Australia.
Jennifer Lauber Patterson is the Managing Director of Frontier Impact Group