Our region could play a vital role in delivering biofuels for the Japanese aviation industry.
The Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) has announced it will partner with Japanese firms Idemitsu and J-Oil Mills to establish the first commercial Pongamia (Millettia Pinnata) plantation in Australia.
The consortium, which is receiving facilitation support from the Queensland Government, is another step towards the establishment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry, according to BMRG’s CEO Sheila Charlesworth.
“Pongamia is nature positive – it not only gives more to nature than it takes out, its production will also create jobs,” says Ms Charlesworth.
A native plant to India and Northern Australia, Pongamia has a high yield of oil that can be used in the creation of SAF, which makes it commercially viable.
When it grows it also draws CO2 from the atmosphere, contributing to the aviation industry’s drive to realise net zero air travel.
Additionally, Pongamia can grow on degraded and unproductive land, providing carbon sequestration and biodiversity benefits to landowners.
Ms Charlesworth says planting Pongamia trees will also create opportunities for local Indigenous communities.
“We will be training traditional owner groups in the management and maintenance of the crop, its harvest and processing.”
“Pongamia is an amazing plant. It allows normal neighbouring plant growth and promotes biodiversity through the establishment of habitat for birds and other wildlife. As a legume, the crop also raises nitrogen levels in the soil, increasing its fertility, and provides opportunities for mixed agriculture on the plantations. The shell and seed by-product of processing can also contribute to the creation of feed for livestock,” says Ms Charlesworth.
The General Manager of Carbon Neutral Transformation at Idemitsu, Mr Tanaka says the consortium has the potential to make a significant contribution to the development of a low-carbon economy.
“The demand for truly sustainable biofuels is huge. In Japan alone, our government has required that we replace 1.4 million tons of fossil fuels, with eco-friendlier alternatives for aviation by 2030. The potential for Pongamia to fulfil part of this demand is very exciting.
The Burnett Mary Regional Group has secured land to release Pongamia plantations for the initial phase of this project, with plans to increase production and support the development of this nature positive industry.