Pilbara region could have bioenergy potential in the long term

The Pilbara region of Western Australia has long term potential for bioenergy developments and carbon farming, according to a new scientific review published by the Western Australia Department for Agriculture and Food.

Covering an area of 502,000 square kilometres, the Pilbara is a large, dry, thinly populated region characterised by distinctive red earth and huge mineral deposits. At present its petroleum, iron ore and natural gas deposits are a vital contributor to Australia’s economy.

The ‘Bioenergy and Carbon Farming Opportunities in the Pilbara’ report investigated the potential for the development of irrigated agriculture to generate bioenergy and carbon farming opportunities. Although determining that there are only limited opportunities at present, it also points out there is long term potential.

Developments in the technology needed to create bioenergy from agricultural waste are likely to add value to any intensive agricultural industries in the Pilbara, according to John Ruprecht, the departments’ Irrigated Agriculture executive director.

“The report found successful, commercially viable long term bioenergy projects would need to be technically viable at the medium to large scale, suited to a hot climate and remote location, use locally produced feedstocks, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts,” he said.

“It concludes that with these criteria in mind, the use of biomass, such as syngas, biogas or ethanol, is not favourable in the short term. The region’s remoteness is identified as a major impediment to greater participation in the carbon economy in the short term.”

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