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Alternative sources of liquid fuels for Australia

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No. 3

March 1981


Australia is an energy-rich country, having large resources of coal and. uranium and reasonable supplies of natural gas. Australia's major need is for transportation fuels. Almost 60% of Australia's primary energy demand is supplied from petroleum, and approximately two-thirds of this is supplied from indigenous sources.

Unless there are substantial additional discoveries of oil, it is expected that the proportion supplied from indigenous sources will fall to about 30% by 1985. While several measures, including conservation, substitution, and alternative modes of transport, can assist in making the major readjustment which will be required, Australia cannot afford to

overlook the use of alternative liquid fuels.

These alternative liquid fuels can be broadly divided into two categories - synthetic crudes from coal, shale or even hydrocarbon plants which will yield petrol or distillate, and fuels such as methanol and ethanol which can be used in pure form or blended with petrol in modified

internal combustion engines.


1. Australia. National Energy Advisory Committee. Alternative liquid fuels. Canberra: A.G.P.S., 1980. 112p. (NEAC report no. 12).

This report reviews the status of the various technologies to produce substitutes for liquid fuels. Prospects for Australia are considered in detail, and conclusions and recommendations are presented in relation to both the general issues and to specific substitutes.

2. Australia. Senate Standing Committee on National Resources. The replacement of petroleum-based fuels by alternative sources of energy. Canberra: AGPS, 1980. ix, 121p. (P.p. 373 of 1980).

The Committee's terms of reference were to investigate and report on the replacement of petroleum-based fuels by alternative sources of energy, with regard to research into alternative fuels, development and demonstration of practical alternatives, and fiscal and other measures required to encourage their adoption.


3. Chemeca 78: Australian Conference on Chemical Engineering, 6th, Surfer's Paradise, 1978. The resources challenge: technological thrust, social impact. Killara, N.S.W.: Institution of Chemical Engineers in Australia, 1979. vi, 330p.

The conference reviewed some of the more important aspects of minerals, energy, and other resource limitations, the resultant thrusts into new technology, and their effects on people and the

environment into the 1980's. Several papers on coal-to-oil conversion and alcohol fuels are included.

4. Gartside, G. The energy cost of prospective fuels; with particular reference to fuels from renewable sources. Search, v. 8, no. 4, April 1977: 105-111.

This paper examines the relative abundance and conversion efficiency of some prospective fuel sources, including fuels from plants and from coal.

5. Liquid fuels for the 1980's; seminar 22 February 1979. Adelaide: Australian Institute of Petroleum, S.A. Branch, 1979. 42 leaves.

Five papers, given by speakers from industry and government, are included.

6. Liquid fuels: longer term needs, prospects and issues. Canberra: National Energy Advisory Committee, 1979. 109p. (NEAC report no. 9)

The report analyses the range of possible developments in Australia's liquid fuel requirements and supplies in the coming decades.

7. National Conference on Chemical Engineering, 4th, Adelaide, 1976. The effective use of hydrocarbon resources: preprints of papers. Sydney: Institution of Engineers, Australia, 1976. 100 p.

Includes papers on oil shale, coal liquefaction, and alcohol fuels.

8. Society of Automotive Engineers - Australasia. Seminar, Parkville, Victoria, 1979. Energy sources in the nineties. Parkville, Vic: SAE -Australasia, 1979. 1 vol.

This publication contains the text of seven papers presented at a seminar held on 31st May 1979, including a paper by E.E. Milkins on alcohol fuels.


9. Stewart, I.M. Liquid fuels in Australia. In Conference on Energy 1977: towards an energy policy for Australia, Canberra, 20-22 July 1977. Canberra: Institution of Engineers, Australia, 1977: 46-83.

The report of one of the working parties set up by the Institution's Task Force on Energy reviews Australian's liquid fuel situation in general and the possibilities of oil from coal in particular.


10. Alcohol fuels: a conference held at the Sebel Town House Sydney, Australia. August 9-11, 1978. Sydney: Institution of Chemical Engineers, N.S.W. Group, 1978. 191 p.

The papers presented at this conference summarise the state of the art and provide a sound basis on which future decisions for research, development and demonstration can be made. 31 papers cover the technology, economics and other aspects of alcohol fuels.

11. Australian Institute of Petroleum. Alcohol fuels: an assessment of their potential for automotive purposes in Australia. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Petroleum, 1978. 8p.

12. Australian Institute of Petroleum. Victorian Branch. Papers presented at a symposium "Gasoline in the next decades." Melbourne: The Institute, 1976. 1 vol.

Five papers presented at a seminar held in August 1976, including one on methanol as a substitute and one on ethanol as a substitute.

13. Buckland, Roger and Carl Buik. On-farm production of alternative fuels: some basic issues. Quarterly Review of the Rural Economy, v. 2, no. 2, May 1980: 186-191.

This paper brings out the importance of the economic issues relating to alternative fuels and illustrates how they can affect assessments of the viability of producing alternative fuels. A range of estimates of the fixed and variable costs associated with their production is Presented.

14. Can we grow our own fuel? Ecos, no. 9, Aug. 1976: 21-23.

Reports on CSIRO studies into the feasibilit y of producing a

substantial proportion of Australia's liquid fuel requirement from eucalypt forests and other plant material.


15. Coffey, S.G. and G.M. Halloran. Higher plants as possible sources of petroleum substitutes. Search, v. 10, no. 12, Dec. 1979: 423-428.

The authors examine the potential of plant species to provide hydrocarbons and seed oils as alternative sources of those chemicals and liquid and gaseous fuels presently derived from petroleum.

16. Colyer, Frank. The methanol option. National Bank Monthly Summary, June 1978: 8-11.

At present, methanol is a poor substitute for petrol in terms of price and performance, but as with other liquid fuel options rising oil prices will make it competitive within about a decade. This article describes tests using methanol undertaken by the Volkswagen group and others.

17. Cribb, Julian. Oil strikes on the farm. National Farmer, 13 Nov. 1980: 8-9.

Enthusiastically describes the possibility of cultivating large crops of calotropis in the north of Australia to give enough crude oil to supply Australia's total oil needs.

18. Feasibility of alternative renewable resources: solar energy, edited by Margaret C. Anderson. 2nd ed. Canberra: Society for Social Responsibility in Science (A.C.T.), 1977. 57p.

Three of the four papers included in this publication, the proceedings of a meeting held in November 1975, are directly concerned with energy from plants.

19. Fuel Ethanol Research and Development Workshop, Canberra, 1980. Preprints of papers. Canberra: Dept. of National Development and Energy, 1980.

The Workshop was arranged by the Department of National Development and Energy under the National Energy, Research, Development and Demonstration Program and held on 4th and 5th February 1980. Papers cover small and intermediate scale production of fuel ethanol, large scale production of fuel ethanol, energy crops, use of ethanol in engines, and prospects for an ethanol contribution to liquid fuels in Australia.


Zu. Uartside, U. Energy from photosynthetic materials - an integrated approach. Search, v.6, no. 6, June 1975: 234-238.

This article concludes that the conversion of solar energy stored in photosynthetic materials to synthetic fuels can supply only a small fraction of the total Australian energy demand, and that integrated systems, providing food, natural polymers and energy would prove more efficient energy producers than those systems using residues.

21. Gifford, Roger M. Fuel from plants. Search, v. 6, no. 11-12, Nov-Dec 1975: 454-455.

An analysis which concludes that there is only meagre scope for plants to contribute to the nation's energy demand. However, it does seem potentially energetically feasible for agriculture and forestry to offset their own fuel needs by using crop residues.

22. Growing fuel - a future option? Ecos, no. 14, Nov. 1977: 24-31.

By 1985 Australia will be particularly dependent on imported oil. Can we convert home-grown plants to liquid fuel such as ethanol to help compensate for our declining oil reserves? This study examines the possibilities, including eucalypts, cassava, wheat straw and

agricultural residues as potential sources.

23. Growing fuel on the farm. Rural Research, no. 103, June 1979: 4-11.

Is it possible to find a replacement for the biggest items on the farmer's fuel bill - petrol and distillate? Researchers are examining potential replacements including power alcohol produced from wood, grains, straw, and other plant materials.

24. Hanks, P.A. Alcohol as a fuel. National Bank Monthly Summary, March 1978: 8-9, 13.

This basic paper analyses the costs of producing alcohol from sugar-cane and cassava. It concludes that in the long term the cost of such processes may well compare favourably with the production costs of synthetic crude derived from coal or oil shale.

25. Henle, R.J. The potential of alcohol fuels. Social Survey, v. 29,

May 1980: 101-106.


26. Jarvis, Lynn Robert. Extraction of combustible hydrocarbon fuel from plants of the genus Euphorbia: a feasibility study. Adelaide: Director-General of Transport, South Australia, 1978. 54, iii, 14 leaves.

The report recommends further work before the feasibility of this process is proven. Though Euphorbia resins have a potentially greater energy content than ethanol, the vast areas needed for cultivation, the specialised extraction procedures, and the toxic effects of the Euphorbia plant are factors against its use as a source of hydrocarbon fuel.

27. McCann, D.J. and H.D.W. Saddler. Photobiological energy conversion in Australia. Search, v. 7, no. 1-2, Jan./Feb. 1976: 17-23.

This article disCusses possible sources of photosynthetic material, including eucalyptus, cassava, elephant grass, kenaf, sugar cane, and organic wastes. Processes for energy conversion are investigated and the technical, economic, and social implications of using solar energy

in this manner are examined.

28. McWaters, D.F. Methanol as a replacement for petrol and distillate: a solution to a potential energy crisis in Australia. Economic Activity, v. 20, no. 3, July 1977: 2-9.

29. Roberts, Ivan, ethanol from crops. May 1980: 181-185.

Nigel Hall, and Helen Lipton. The economics of fuel Quarterly Review of the Rural Economy, v. 2, no. 2,

Proven technologies for producing ethanol are currently available. This paper analyses the cost of producing ethanol as a commercial fuel in Australia, and concludes that, although Australia has the physical capacity to produce much of its liquid fuel requirements as ethanol from agriculture, other alternatives appear at this stage to have better long-term economic prospects.

30. Rogers, P.L. Biological sources of energy. Australian Natural History, v. 19, July/Sept. 1979: 372-375.

31. Saddler, H.D.W. and. others. An assessment of crop production for energy in Australia. Australian Forestry, v. 39, no. 1, 1976: 5-15.

32. Sheldon, Bill. Turning sugar beets into fuel economically. Rural Research, no. 108, Sept. 1980: 4-6.

The author reports on a study into the feasibility of producing ethanol from sugar beet. The research team argue that ethanol derived from sugar beet is a competitive fuel in remote communities.


33. Stewart, G.A. Liquid fuel production from a g riculture and forestry in Australia. Search, v. 10, no. 11, Nov. 1979: 382-387.

A resume of the full report (see next item).

34. Stewart, G.A. and others. The potential for liquid fuels from agriculture and forestr y in Australia. Melbourne: CSIRO, 1979. viii, 147p. This report is a preliminary assessment of the potential for production of liquid fuels for transport from agricultural and

forestry resources in Australia in the next 20 to 40 years, using existing or near-term technologies.

35. Strong, Maxwell J. Alcohol fuels; handbook for Australian farmers. Sydney: Bio-Energy (Australia) Pty. Ltd., 1979. 54 leaves.

This booklet has been prepared as a simple outline of the opportunities and procedures involved in making alcohol fuels for transportation and heating.


36. Allen, R.J. Synthetic liquid fuels; a literature survey. AMDEL Bulletin, no. 22, 1977: 1-19.

This is a state-of-the-art review of the development of processes for producing synthetic liquid fuels, based on a survey of the literature. Emphasis is placed on the prospects of using nuclear energy in the conversion processes.

37. Coal comfort. Petroleum Gazette, v. 20, no. 1, March 1978: 6-20 (Also republished as 'Petroleum Institute reports on liquid fuel from coal' in Queensland Government Mining Journal, v. 79, no. 919, May 1978: 239-244).

A basic paper on coal liquefaction.

38. Colyer, Frank. Converting coal to oil. National Bank Monthly

Summary, Oct. 1977: 5-8.

Coal liquefaction processes are described and the author looks at the potential applications in Australia.


39. Evans, D.G. Conversion of brown coal to oil. Royal Australian Chemical Institute. Proceedings, v. 43, no. 3, Mar. 1976: 85-90.

40. How shale oil could fill the energy gap. Rydge's, v. 53, no. 4, Apr. 1980: 22-24.

Outlines Australia's deposits of oil shale and briefly describes the process to be used to process shale from the Rundle deposit. Economic aspects are also treated.

41. Husbanding our coal resources. Ecos, no. 13, Aug. 1977: 3-9.

Outlines studies which highlighted the diversity of Australia's coal resources and gauge how these resources match up to the demands likely to be placed upon them. Indicates the most appropriate uses of Australia's coal deposits, including conversion to oil.

42. Liddy, John C. The potential of Australian brown coals for petroleum and allied production. Australian Mining, v. 68, no. 8, Aug. 1976: 14-18.

Australia, particularly Victoria, has extensive, easily-worked deposits of brown coal, which can be processed to give petroleum and allied industrial compounds. This article describes the nature of brown coal and various conversion processes, and gives details of Australia's brown coal deposits.

43. Luttin, K. and others. Pilot plant studies of coal hydrogenation. B.H.P. Technical Bulletin, v. 22, no. 1, 1978: 3-9.

44. Lyall, K.D. Prospects for synthetic fuel production in Australia. Search, v. 8, no. 7, July 1977: 236-239.

The author surveys the possibilities for coal conversion in Australia and concludes that while prospects for solvent refined coal production seem quite good, synthetic liquid fuel prospects lack definition and require clarification by in-depth technical and economic analysis. Continuing Australian research in this area is imperative.

45. Making oil from coal. Ecos, no. 5, Aug. 1975: 3-9.

A description of the flash Pyrolysis process and its study by CSIRO.


46. Nicklin, D.J. Prospects for coal conversion. Queensland Government Mining Journal, V. 79, no. 918, Apr. 1978: 213-215.

Professor Nicklin outlines various processes for the conversion of coal to liquid and gaseous fuels and discusses the prospects for integrating plants using such processes into the Australian energy scene.

47. Oil from coal - three years on. Ecos, no. 16, May 1978: 21-24. (Also republished as 'CSIRO research on oil from coal' in Qeensland Governemnt Mining Journal, v. 79, no. 920, June 1978: 327-329).

A progress report on CSIRO's flash pyrolysis project for the conversion of coal to oil.

48. Perkins, D.N. Production of liquid hydrocarbons from coal and its impact on the electricity supply industry in Queensland. Queensland Government Mining Journal, v. 81, no. 946, Aug. 1980: 417-422 and v. 81, no. 947, Sept. 1980: 467-482.

This paper examines the chemistry of coal and liquid fuels and of the coal-to-oil conversion processes. The review indicates that the simplest approach to coal liquefaction is to produce a motor gasoline from those coal molecules which are most readily convertible and to use the remainder as a fuel for use by a large stationary fuel user, e.g. a power station.

49. Rundle: energy from oil shale. Sydney: Southern Pacific Petroleum and Central Pacific Minerals, 1980. 12 p.

50. Saxby, John. Oil shale in Australia. ERT: Energy Resources and Technology, v. 2, no. 5, July 1980: 30-32, 34.

The author looks at Australian oil shales in the world context. He focuses on their chemistry, geology, and petrology and assesses their use and development.

51. Saxby, John. Technology of oil shale extraction. ERT: Energy Resources and Technology, v. 2, no. 7, Sept. 1980: 24, 26-28.

Described are the various methods for processing oil shale to provide synthetic fuels.

52. Sykes, Trevor. Rundle. Australian Business, v. 1, no. 1, 23 Oct. 1980: 36-42.

Problems facing the development of the Rundle shale oil project are detailed. Printed by C. J. TF1OMPSON. Commonwealt h Government Printer, Canberra



NO. 3 MARCH 1981


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