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Biorefining for the Future

 

Australia has a comparative advantage in biorefining, as its climate and agricultural sector ensure a large supply of biomass material for use in producing chemicals, plastics and fuels. Biorefineries in Australia are likely to be viable sources of economic growth and diversification. Their output can be used as inputs to domestic industries as well as generate export earnings. In addition, biorefinery industries can significantly add value to agricultural outputs, diversifying the revenue base of agricultural producers.

Agriculture is an important part of Australia’s economy. The value of agricultural production exceeds A$50 billion (USD38 billion) per year and contributes 15% of total Australian merchandise exports. Australian agriculture has a long history of export success, with about 65% of agricultural production exported largely to markets in Asia and North America. Australian agriculture directly employs an estimated 270,000 people with another 223,000 employed in food and related manufacturing businesses.

In 2014, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) commissioned a report by Deloitte Access Economics and Corelli Consulting to investigate the economic potential of establishing a tropical biorefinery industry in Queensland as a case study of the opportunities more broadly available in Australia.The results of the economic modelling showed that the development of a tropical biorefinery industry as described in this scenario would result in an increase in gross state product by over A$1.8 billion (USD1.4 billion) per year (net present value of the contribution over the modelled period of A$21.5 billion [USD16.4 billion]) and create more than 6,600 new full-time jobs in Queensland alone by 2035.

Deloitte Access Economics nominated agribusiness as one of five sectors that have the potential to take over from mining as key drivers of economic growth in Australia. International markets for agribusiness products are burgeoning, largely as a result of population growth and rising incomes in countries close to Australia. The benefits in economic output and jobs would accrue broadly across the economy, resulting not only in economic uplift in the expected sectors of agriculture and manufacturing, but also in trade, transport, and services industries. While this modelling considered a Queensland state scenario, the potential opportunities for establishing a biorefinery industry across Australia would likely be correspondingly greater.

Queensland Government’s major focus has currently been the growing industrial biotechnology and bioproducts sector, with a vision to build a $1 billion industry by 2026 by attracting significant international investment and creating regional jobs, the Queensland Government has designed a Advance Queensland Biofutures 10-year Roadmap and Action Plan to revolutionise the sector.