Future Energy Australia (FEA) has secured a Clean Energy Future Fund (CEFF) grant from the Western Australian government for its renewable diesel biorefinery project at Narrogin for which Technip Energies recently started front-end engineering and design work.

FEA — a 50:50 joint venture between Carnarvon Energy and Frontier Impact Group — intends to invest the A$2 million (US$1.49 million) grant in project development, preliminary site works and engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning activities for the first of four biorefining modules.

Narrogin will be the first commercial scale renewable diesel production facility in Australia.

Start-up scheduled

FEA chair Adrian Cook said the grant would assist the company to accelerate the pilot project towards feasibility and production, which is currently scheduled to commence late 2023.

The Narrogin project could offset three tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions for every tonne of biomass processed at the renewable diesel refinery

“Our project has the potential to transform the approach to fuel production and use for individuals, business and organisations looking to reduce their carbon footprint,” he said.

“We’re really excited to push forward with developing the refinery and implementing our technology, which has the ability to create a circular economy, regional employment opportunities and significant carbon emission reduction.”

Carnarvon in March confirmed it had a 12-month exclusive option to purchase a 65-hectare site in the Shire of Narrogin for its first renewable diesel project.

Technical due diligence on the site is progressing well, and relevant regulatory approvals for the project are in preparation, the company this week said.

In tandem, FEA has commenced stakeholder consultations within the Shire of Narrogin to build awareness of the project’s importance to the region.

“The project receiving a Clean Energy Future Fund grant acknowledges the clear benefits renewable diesel can bring to reducing carbon emissions and creating a carbon-neutral alternative fuel in Western Australia,” added Cook.

“Our project has the potential to transform the approach to fuel production.”

The joint venture’s business model is to convert sustainably sourced woody biomass such as ecological thinnings, oil mallees and plant-based agricultural residues into renewable diesel using high-temperature pyrolysis.

Lower emissions profile

Renewable diesel can replace conventional diesel without requiring modifications to diesel engines and it burns cleaner and has a lower emissions profile compared to conventional diesel.

The produced renewable diesel also has the potential to be further refined into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), while the high-temperature pyrolysis process also produces high-quality biochar and wood vinegar.

FEA executive director Jennifer Lauber Patterson also welcomed the funding and thanked the state government for its support of the Narrogin project.

“This is an acknowledgement of the clear benefits renewable diesel can bring to reducing carbon emissions and creating a carbon-neutral alternative fuel in regional Western Australia,” she said.

“After more than a year of planning, development and stakeholder engagement, we have confirmed a site, are advanced in front-end engineering and design, and have feedstock and offtake agreements in train.”

FEA is aiming to develop multiple biorefinery projects across Western Australia, each producing commercial volumes of renewable diesel through net-carbon zero technology, and to establish a substantial Australian-owned and operated renewable fuels business.

The joint venture company is also investigating the opportunity to refine the high-quality biochar into graphene which, Carnarvon noted, has “attractive applications” including in the next generation of high-capacity, long-life, fast-charging batteries.

The WA government launched the CEFF in April 2020 to support the implementation of innovative clean energy projects which offer high public value, with a focus on projects near the investment-ready stage and applications with strong potential for wider adoption.