Professor Ian O'Hara

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PhD (Queensland University of Technology), Master of Business Administration (Technology Management) (Deakin University), Bachelor of Engineering (University of Queensland)

Ian O’Hara is Deputy Director of the QUT Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy (CAB). Ian is a leading expert in technologies and systems for development of the bioeconomy and bio-based products including biofuels, bioenergy and biomaterials. In addition to his academic role, Ian also represents the Queensland Government as the Biofutures Industry Envoy and acts as an ambassador for Queensland’s biofutures industry and industrial biotechnology sector. As the Envoy, Ian provides strategic advice to government and assists in securing domestic and international investment to grow the Biofutures sector. Ian is the Australian representative on the International Advisory Committee for the Global Bioeconomy Summit and is a Senior Editor for EFB Bioeconomy Journal.

Ian led the development of the Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant (MRBPP) – a unique publicly accessible pilot scale research facility in Australia for the development and demonstration of processing technologies for the manufacture of biofuels and bioproducts.

Ian is a Chemical Engineer with extensive experience in research, consulting, policy development, operations management, process design and engineering. Ian works closely with industry and undertakes consulting projects globally in areas including bioeconomy development, technology optimisation, development of agricultural precincts, techno-economics, business strategy and process improvement.

Key Research areas

Ian’s current research interests include:

  • bioeconomy development
  • industrial biotechnology
  • biofuels and bioenergy
  • biorefining and biochemicals production
  • process engineering
  • pilot plant development, scale up and process demonstration
  • techno-economic assessments

Recent research has focussed on the technical and economic development of biofuel and bioproduct production systems including feedstock supply, bioprocessing technologies, techno-economics and systems analysis. In particular this includes:

Biomass pretreatment

  • Use of green solvents for biomass pretreatment including glycerol, other polyols and ionic liquids
  • Lower cost production of fermentable sugars via pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass
  • Pilot plant demonstration of a wide range of pretreatment technologies
  • Mathematical modelling of dilute acid hydrolysis of sugarcane bagasse

Production of bioproducts

  • Production of organic acids, lipids and alcohols via microbial fermentation
  • Extraction and utilisation of lignin for the production of bioproducts
  • Production of biodiesel from new feedstocks and improved production technologies
  • Production of enhanced animal feeds
  • Economic and techno-economic modelling of biorefinery and bioproduct systems including use of complex decision analysis techniques

Bioeconomy systems – feedstocks, technologies and markets

  • Conversion of agricultural and livestock wastes into valuable products
  • Valorisation and reduction of food wastes
  • Technical and economic modelling of integrated sugar and biorefining processes
  • Synthetic biology markets and products
  • Regional bioeconomy development

Selected keynote and plenary presentations

  • Bundaberg Bioeconomy Conference. Bundaberg. 2020
  • 1st Indo Asean Oceanic Business Summit & Expo. 2020
  • Local Government Association of Queensland. Future Economy Series. 2020
  • Thai Institute of Chemical Engineers and Applied Chemistry Conference. 2020
  • Queensland Asia Pacific Bioeconomy Policy Summit. Brisbane. 2019
  • Queensland Advanced Biomanufacturing Forum. Brisbane. 2019
  • 7th International Yeast and Synthetic Genomes conference. Sydney. 2018
  • Renewable Energy Asia. Thailand. 2016
  • Asia Biohydrogen and Biorefinery Symposium (Asia Biohylinks). Malaysia. 2014
  • 1st ASEAN Conference on Microbial Biotechnology. Thailand. 2014

Representation

  • Queensland Biofutures Industry Envoy
  • Queensland Biofutures Industry Advisory Committee
  • International Advisory Council, Global Bioeconomy Summit, Germany
  • External Advisory Board, Biomass Energy Network, Alberta, Canada
  • Cleaner Fuels Alliance, Bioenergy Australia

Projects

Additional information

Over my career I have worked for many years in industry and developed a robust understanding of the demands and challenges of agricultural and manufacturing industries. Many industries are challenged by the reliance on traditional commodity products in global markets. In these industries, there is a strong need for agricultural and industrial transformation and product diversification in new markets. Opportunities exist through innovation in biotechnology and green chemistry to develop new environmentally sustainable processes and products which meet consumer needs and enhance economic sustainability of industry, and hence grow the global bioeconomy.

Research

I have experience in leading large complex multi-party research projects. Increasingly, this work is focussed on the conversion of agricultural, livestock and food industry wastes into new products of commercial value. Understanding and analysing the economic opportunities for the growth of the bioeconomy and the benefits in regional growth and jobs is a key focus.

Key research areas include:

Organic solvent-based pretreatment of biomass

My work is widely recognised internationally for contribution to the development and demonstration of technologies for the pretreatment of biomass using organic solvents. As program leader for the Bioprocessing team within the Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuels Development, I led a team to develop biomass pretreatment technologies based on high boiling point organic solvents including glycerol and other polyols. The technologies developed resulted in publication and granted patents in 3 patent families. The technologies were also scaled up to a pilot scale and these studies were published.

Scale up of bio-based technologies

As designer and program leader for the Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant, I have worked to advance bioprocess engineering through technology scale-up. Over the past decade, the facility has demonstrated a wide range of technologies including biomass pretreatment, fermentation and downstream bioprocesses to produce organic acids, microbial lipids, and probiotics.

Techno-economic assessment of bio-based technologies

I have worked extensively on understanding the factors affecting the development of bio-based technologies for the production of bio-based products. My work has advanced knowledge of the availability of biomass feedstocks in Australia including through participating with state governments in the development of the Australian Biomass for Bioenergy (ABBA) assessment which is displayed on the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Interface (AREMI). I have undertaken assessments of biomass availability for technologies and / or regions. This work has explored the key factors influencing yield, efficiency and profitability of process technologies including through the use of multi-criteria decision analysis for the selection of optimal processes.

 

Type
Editorial Role for an Academic Journal
Reference year
2020
Details
Senior editor of EFB Bioeconomy Journal
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2020
Details
Invited Speaker - 1st Indo Asean Oceanic Business Summit & Expo. India (via zoom)
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2020
Details
Plenary speaker, Thai Institute of Chemical Engineers and Applied Chemistry Conference. Bangkok, Thailand - Via zoom
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2019
Details
Session chair, invited speaker, and conference co-organiser, Life Sciences Queensland. Asia Pacific Bioeconomy Policy Summit.
Type
Assessor, Examiner or Supervisor Role
Reference year
2018
Details
Judge at Energy Labs Hackathon
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2018
Details
Invited speaker, Panel session on synthetic biology. 7th International Yeast and Synthetic Genomes conference
Type
Advisor/Consultant for Industry
Reference year
2017
Details
Appointed as Co-Chair of the R&D Implementation Advisory Committee of the MLA Supply Chain Sustainability Program
Type
Appointment to Prestigious Positions
Reference year
2017
Details
International Advisory Committee - Global Bioeconomy Summit
Type
Appointment to State/National/International Reference Group or Government Committees
Reference year
2017
Details
Chair of the Biofutures Industry Advisory Committee
Type
Appointment to Prestigious Positions
Reference year
2016
Details
Queensland Biofutures Industry Envoy
Title
ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
CE200100029
Start year
2020
Keywords
Title
Biorefineries for Profit - Phase 2 (RnD4Profit 18-04-016 | 2019/902) (4207/4395)
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
4-BA20OPM
Start year
2019
Keywords
Agriculture;Bioproducts;Biorefinery;Diversification;Value Chain
Title
Cost Effective Renewable Hydrogen through Materials, Modelling and Process Innovation
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
MG030
Start year
2018
Keywords
Battery and Solar Power;Hydrogen Production;Microgrid Integration;Renewable Energy;Water Electrolysis
Title
Wastes to Profits: Value Propositions for Better Management of Wastes in Animal Industry Supply Chains (4303)
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
V.RDP.3010
Start year
2018
Keywords
Title
A profitable future for Australian agriculture: Biorefineries for higher-value animal feeds, chemicals, and fuels (RnD4Profit 14-01-044) (4207)
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
2015/902
Start year
2016
Keywords
Agriculture;Bioproducts;Biorefinery;Diversification;Value Chain
Title
Integrated technologies for economically sustainable bio-based energy(Grand Challenges)
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
GCF020010
Start year
2013
Keywords
Biomass;Biofuel;Biorefinery;Ethanol;Alkanes;Lignin
Title
Revenue diversification from sugarcane fibre: novel technologies for the processing of bagasse for low-cost biofuels production
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
QUT051
Start year
2011
Keywords
Pretreatment;Biofuels;Ethanol
Title
Developing a New Renewable Fuel and Food Industry in Australia: Sweet Sorghum
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
PRJ-005254
Start year
2010
Keywords
Sweet Sorghum;Milling;Biofuels;Ethanol;Food;Fermentation