Jigsaw puzzles linking different types of second generation biofuels feedstocks such as crop stubble and forest residue.

Sustainable biomass production

Australia currently supplies 75 per cent of its transport fuel from local oil and gas sources. However, demand is growing at an increasing rate and without major new discoveries or technological breakthroughs this fraction is estimated to decline to 45 per cent by 2030.

  • 15 August 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011

Biofuels can potentially reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reduce our reliance on oil. The Australian biofuels industry is very small and currently supplies less than 0.5 per cent of our nation’s transport fuel using first generation technology.

There is a pressing need to assess the potential of sustainably-produced biomass for second generation, non-food biofuels and associated bioenergy if the industry is to play a more significant role in Australia’s energy future.

CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship is providing a collaborative platform and conducting a broad research program in the biofuels area to investigate the potential for a sustainable and economically viable second generation biofuels industry.

The research

CSIRO’s Sustainable Biomass Production project aims to develop integrated methodologies that enable the exploration of a range of biofuels and bioenergy feedstock options in a systematic fashion.

The project will present an accurate assessment of Australia’s potential resources and clarify the sustainability implications of using them within various technological pathways.

Previous work shows that there is reliable data to underpin our understanding of the potential for biofuels based on crops. It is likely that these ‘first generation’ biofuels will make only a minor contribution to Australia’s future fuel supply in the region of five to 10 per cent.

The project will present an accurate assessment of Australia's potential resources and clarify the sustainability implications of using them within various technological pathways.

In contrast, there is no reliable data to underpin our assessment of non-crop resources such as algae, lignocellulose (woody or fibrous part of plants), wheat stubble, bagasse, plantation residues, urban waste wood and organic wastes. These future ‘second generation’ biofuels may provide a greater volume of biofuel and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of these new options require substantial research investment in order to assess their true potential, and in many cases, to develop biomass production systems to grow them at sufficient scale.

In addition to considering these future options, CSIRO’s work is also focused on the development of methods for assessing the environmental and social sustainability of biomass production systems.

Impact and outcomes

The future development of the Australian biofuels industry is reliant on a sustainable and economically attractive feedstock supply. The Sustainable Biomass Production project seeks to fill a knowledge gap about these feedstocks and provide options for significantly increased biomass production in Australia.

Our analyses will present options that merit further detailed investigation and will provide a reference for industry, policy makers, the research and development sector and the community. Reports will also provide, where possible, quantification on the environmental benefits or otherwise of particular feedstock options, including comparative greenhouse gas emissions.


CSIRO is actively seeking collaborative partnerships to extend existing science capabilities and address some of the outstanding, important questions related to the future of biofuels in Australia.

Current research partners include the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. These organisations are working with CSIRO on reviewing sustainability frameworks, an undertaking that is funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation is funding a component of work related to farm-scale energy efficiency, regional self-sufficiency and stubble production.

Previous biofuels reports

 Reports  Author
Opportunities for energy efficiency and biofuel production in Australian wheat farming systems
http://www.future-science.com/doi/pdf/10.4155/bfs.10.29 [15pgs, 809KB PDF, external link]
Damien Farine et al.
Sustainable Production of Bioenergy – A review of global bioenergy sustainability frameworks and assessment systems
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/09-167.pdf [164pgs, 1.2MB PDF, external link]
Deb O'Connell et al

Conceptual investment framework for biofuels and biore€neries research and development
http://www.future-science.com/doi/pdf/10.4155/bfs.09.14 [16pgs, 1.1MB PDF, external link]

Deb O'Connell and Victoria Haritos

Biofuels in Australia: Issues and Prospects (O’Connell et al)
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/07-071.pdf [84pgs, 1.3MB PDF, external link]

Deb O'Connell et al
Biofuels in Australia: some economic and policy considerations
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/07-177.pdf [56pgs, 297KB PDF, external link]
Dave Batten, Deb O'Connell
A framework for research and development in bioenergy, bioproducts and energy
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/07-178.pdf [55pgs, 263KB PDF, external link]
Deb O'Connell et al

Biofuel co-products for livestock
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/07-175.pdf [31pgs, 353KB PDF, external link]

Andrew Braid
Biobased products – opportunities for Australian agricultural industries
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/07-176.pdf [28pgs, 885KB, external link]
Victoria Haritos
The greenhouse gas and air quality emissions of biodiesel blends in Australia
Tom Beer et al
Future biofuels for Australia
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/08-117.pdf [53pgs, 2MB PDF, external link]
Andrew Warden and Victoria Haritos
Life Cycle Assessment of Environmental Outcomes and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Biofuels Production in Western Australia
 [80pgs, 1.5MB PDF]
Tim Grant et al


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