AUSTRALIA

Beach looking to turn petroleum waste into biofuel

BEACH Energy has formed an alliance with San Diego-based General Atomics to examine the use of special land-farming techniques on oil and gas fields in the Cooper Basin, South Australia, to produce biofuels.

Beach looking to turn petroleum waste into biofuel

Under the memorandum of understanding, the duo will analyse whether the region's natural elements can contribute cost effectively to algae bio oil and fuel production.

They will then look at whether the related technology being developed by GA can produce algae oil while reducing carbon dioxide emissions and utilising waste water from Beach's natural gas and oil-production areas in the Cooper Basin.

"The growing of algae on land unsuitable for other farming applications and nourished with poor quality water and with otherwise undesirable CO2 is possible," General Atomics spokesman Bill Davison said.

"The yield of oil per unit surface area is large - many times larger than the yield of oil for other oil growth crops. The challenge with the use of algae for this purpose is cost."

Beach managing director Reg Nelson said it was possible the effluent mitigation requirements of hydrocarbon fields in the Cooper Basin could match up well with the feed requirements of an algae farm.

"Taken together, one achieves a cost effective and environmentally sound system for producing bio oils and bio fuels," he said.

Nelson added the move was a continuation and expansion of Beach's drive to maximise the potential of its hydrocarbon assets and obtaining new by-products made possible by technological breakthroughs.

"Success will ensure that, for possibly the first time in Australia's petroleum sector, commercial production of oil and gas from a field can be matched onsite with environmentally-based by-product options able to deliver a saleable green fuel."

Under the initial stages of the study, Beach and GA will assess water, land, solar radiation and CO2 availability and suitability for algae farming; evaluate the existence of, or need for, new suitable power sources, transportation and other infrastructure as well as potential markets.

Should the evaluation prove satisfactory, both parties will move towards separate agreements for a gradual scale-up of related projects.

This could include the selection of algae species and a complete economic feasibility study by August this year; building and operating test systems by June next year; establishing a 10-20 hectare pilot by December 2012; and building and operating commercial-scale systems by June 2015.

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