Bioenergy ‘could soon be booming’ in Western Australia

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Simon Dawkins BEc, director, Oil Mallee Association, on the future of bioenergy in Western Australia.

Western Australia (WA) is a the largest of the Australian States and has a 20-million-hectare wheatbelt. Most of the grain is exported including a million tonnes of canola to Europe for biofuel. However, it is the recent promotion of lignocellulosic biomass to produce second generation biofuels that is creating significant attention. A principal source of this biomass is to come from endemic dryland mallee eucalyptus species. The ‘mallee’ once covered much of the wheatbelt and proved to be a challenge when clearing land due to its deep-rooted structure and large below ground root mass. It is, however, this particular organic structure that provides a very helpful characteristic that enables multiple harvesting or more accurately — coppicing. This characteristic was demonstrated over many years by farmers growing the trees for eucalyptus oil and is being exploited today by long term and new operators.

The origin of this move to the idea of growing mallee eucalypts for biomass feedstock came about from an enterprising farmer with forestry...

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