The University of Queensland Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research (CILR) , has begun research to establish the Pongamia Pinnata tree as a resource for Australia’s biodiesel industry.
Using Pongamia for biodiesel production has the two-fold environmental benefit of growing trees that store carbon while producing oil for fuel. Pongamia will grow on land not fit for food crops and does not need nitrate fertilisers like most other biofuels crops. How productive it will be under these circumstances is yet to be seen.
In a report by the Invasive Species Council called The Weedy Truth About Biofuels the authors rated Pongamia as the least invasive of a range of potential biofuels plants. However, the report still recommends the trees not be planted near sensitive areas such as National Parks due to its propensity to spread.
CILR has now agreed to a $1 million research contract with Pacific Renewable Energy (PRE). PRE is set to partner CILR and put in another $1 million as part of a Queensland Government SmartState fund.
CILR Director, Professor Peter Gresshoff said:
Momentum is really starting to build. We’re getting a proper financial basis for research and now we have to make sure we lay a solid basis for a biodiesel industry in Australia to replace crude oil
Twelve hectares of Pongamia planted near Caboolture should, in two or three years, give insight into how its oil handles.
PRE was co-founded by George Muirhead. Mr Muirhead had seen the Pongamia oil used as fuel by an academic who was searching for affordable fuels for villagers in Bangalore, India. This research resulted in a village trial in which the oil was used to fuel a generator and that powered a cold room.
Source: Courier Mail