Modelling the transition to a biofuel economy in Australia

Apr 2000

In the international and Australian context there are two biomass based liquid transportation fuels that might replace petrol and diesel. These are ethanol and methanol although bio-diesel is also a well-developed technology. Ethanol is viewed in North America, Brazil and Australia as a more useable fuel that can be readily blended with petrol, used as an octane enhancer and even as a 100% replacement for petrol with suitable engine modifications.
Methanol appears to be the substitution fuel of choice in Europe, particularly for new generation cars powered by fuel cells. Methanol is more toxic, acidic and corrosive than ethanol, it requires larger fuel tanks per unit of energy, but is still amenable to 100% replacement of petrol with appropriate engine technology. Commercially available flexible fuel vehicle (or FFVs) in the United States have sensing technology which adjusts engine tuning and performance to the fuel in the tank (petrol, ethanol, methanol and blends), so future vehicle fleets need not be disadvantaged by the regional availability of different fuel types.
This study investigates the transition pathways to ethanol and methanol transport fuel cycles and biomass fuelled electricity. These potential 'win-win' pathways help reforest Australia’s crop and pasture lands, help meet Australia’s potential oil deficit and contribute to refurbishing the employment opportunities and social institutions in rural Australia.

By: B. Foran (CSIRO), D. Crane (Centre for Human Ecology)

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