New research suggests biofuel made from oil mallee trees could be a viable source of jet fuel, offering a glimmer of hope for growers in Western Australia who planted the trees in large numbers in the past two decades.

Farmers in the Great Southern were encouraged to plant the trees to address salinity issues, create a possible biomass industry, and reap the expected benefits of a carbon pricing system. But hopes of an industry driven by mallees are yet to be delivered.

That has left large quantities of trees taking up farming land with no immediate prospects of a financial return for landowners. That could be about to change with research led by the Farm Future Industries Cooperative Research Centre in Perth finding using those trees to fuel aeroplanes is both scientifically possible and financially viable.

Research director John McGrath said that could provide a $30 million economic boost to the region and an industry could be possible as early as 2021. “What we need to do is manufacture sufficient quantities of the material so it can be run through the certification process,” he said. “But it’s fair to say that all of the early investigations into the chemistry of these oils suggests it’s highly likely they will be suitable [for air travel use].”


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