Forest Biomass Fuels Australia’s Push Toward Green Aviation

The new Jet Zero Council will push to make Australia a global leader in Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

Thu 22 Jun 23


Australian efforts to make air travel greener have received a major boost with the establishment of the Jet Zero Council to support a more sustainable aviation industry.

The council brings together a cross-section of senior stakeholders from across the aviation sector and its supply chains to lead efforts to deliver net zero aviation in Australia.

The council will also coordinate across the sector to provide advice to Government on issues related to the aviation industry’s transition to net zero emissions

To support the transition, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced that it would be investing $30 million into the liquid biofuel market – to be made from forestry and agricultural waste as well as used cooking oil.

Biofuel has emerged as a lucrative market for forestry.  Last month Wood Central reported on how Blue Scope is using biochar technology to create ‘green steel production’ whilst Kiland has launched the world’s largest biomass project in South Australia.  

However, the opportunity for liquid fuel is endless.

On Wednesday, Federal Transport Minister Catherine King announced the launch of the Jet Zero Council and its membership following industry talks in February.

“We are formalising the membership of council so that we can begin that work of not only building a Sustainable Aviation Fuel industry here in Australia but also… look at reducing emissions,” she said.

In March 2023, the Financial Times explored the emergence of sustainable aviation fuels and whether it can be commercially scaleable. Footage courtesy of @FinancialTimes
What are Sustainable Aviation Fuels?

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) are renewable hydrocarbon sources that are not fossil fuel-based.

They include sources such as used cooking oil, municipal waste, and forestry biomass.

Worldwide, aviation firms have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 with 65 per cent of emission cuts expected to come from the use of sustainable fuel.

In December 2022, Australia excluded native forest biomass from its definition of ‘renewable energy source’ under its ‘Renewable Energy Target’ – with renewable biomass for the fuel coming from plantation sources only.

“We know Australians love to fly; aviation has come roaring back. But we have our part to play very much in getting to net zero and getting that important target which is now legislated.”

The council – which includes representatives from Qantas, Virgin, Boeing, Airbus, BP, Brisbane Airport Corporation, and the Department of Defence – is expected to push for cuts to aviation emissions and provide advice to government agencies on creating a sustainable fuel industry.

Federal Transport Minister Catherine King will chair the Jet Zero Council
Report: Forest and wood-based biomass plays an important role in Net Zero

According to a report commissioned by the International Energy Agency (IEA), demand for biomass is expected to boom over the next few decades as the world’s economy decarbonises.

In the Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 report, the IEA supports a shift away from bioenergy produced by food crops – known as ‘conventional bioenergy feedstocks’ with a focus on organic waste streams, forest and wood residues, short-rotation woody crops and forestry plantings.

The report shows that liquid biofuel is expected to surge over the next decade as petroleum vehicles dominate the roads.

Source: IEA 2021: Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 Report, Licence: CC BY 4.0

However, as electricity and hydrogen power vehicles replace petroleum, advanced liquid biofuels will shift to areas harder to electrify like shipping and aviation.

A key finding from the report looks at biomass supply.

“As well as allowing a much greater level of bioenergy crop production on marginal lands, short-rotation woody crops can produce twice as much bioenergy per hectare as many conventional bioenergy crops,”

The IEA asserts that an increase in short-rotation woody bioenergy production from marginal lands, as well as the switch from conventional bioenergy crops to advanced short-rotation woody crops, would sequester around 190 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050, reducing Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use emissions by 140 million tonnes of CO2 relative to today.

Source: IEA 2021: Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 Report, Licence: CC BY 4.0

“Sustainably managed forest plantations established outside of existing forested land can increase carbon stocks while at the same time sustainably producing biomass,” according to the report.

Energy Minister: Climate emergency is Australia’s job opportunity

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said a local SAF industry could create thousands of jobs while reducing Australian airlines’ dependence on imported fuels.

“The world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity… a homegrown sustainable aviation fuels industry could create more than 7400 jobs by 2030, most of them in regional areas,” he said.

“Australia’s strong agricultural sector means we could be a global leader by scaling up domestic production of renewable fuel for exports.”

Bioenergy Australia CEO, Shahana McKenzie welcomed the changes, saying they could help to reduce hurdles for producers and accelerate investments in the industry.

“Australia has the opportunity to play a leading role in the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels for the region,” she said.

Last month, Bioenergy Australia CEO spoke to Sky News Australia about the role that SAF in Australia’s net zero transition. Footage courtesy of @SkyNewsAustralia

Meanwhile, Australian start-up Dovetail, backed by regional airline Rex, has revealed plans to use hydrogen fuel-cell technology in its latest efforts to create zero-emission planes.

Dovetail has also signed a deal with Hyundai to use the company’s hydrogen fuel-cell system in a future zero-emissions plane.

Dovetail chief executive David Doral said the use of hydrogen technology could create “innovative solutions for a sustainable future in aviation”.

The company is expected to test the technology in flights next year.


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    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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