Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative



The ultimate goal of the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative is to help enable construction and operation of a sustainable biofuel manufacturing facility in Queensland. The project started in 2010 at The University of Queensland and a second project is now evaluating the specific business case for a biofuel production plant in Mackay.


The Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative was born out of an aviation industry desire for genuinely sustainable aviation fuels that will match current performance standards. The initiative was established through a Queensland Government National and International Research Alliances Program grant that brought together a consortium of university biofuel experts and industry for the AU$6.5 million first stage of the program. The second phase to evaluate the business case is funded through the Queensland Government’s Research Partnerships Program.

Research and industry partners

Hosted at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at The University of Queensland, the initiative involves partnerships with the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, and the Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research at UQ; James Cook University; and leading companies Boeing, Virgin Australia, Mackay Sugar Limited, General Electric, IOR Energy and the US biotech Amyris. 

  • AIBN has led the development of detailed, open and transparent techno-economic engineering models that evaluate the production of biofuels from three different biomass sources (sucrose from sugar cane; oil from the seeds of the Pongamia tree; and autotrophic microalgae). The results have been published in a leading international journal and will inform researchers and other community stakeholders. The results suggest where future research and development would have the greatest impact on the feasibility and lowering the cost of biofuel production.
  • Boeing has performed detailed lifecycle analyses on the production of biofuel from the three feed stocks to evaluate sustainability.
  • A PDF version of more information is available. This provides a forum to disseminate the results and for review, discussion and the updating of results. The aim of the PDF is also to provide clarity and consensus on biofuel production feasibility for scientists, engineers, government and the wider community.
  •  AIBN has strong expertise in microbe engineering, and systems and synthetic biology, which are being used to develop and improve the process of converting sugarcane to aviation fuel.

The big picture

The work described above refers to the concept analysis first stage of the full project to achieve biofuel manufacture in Queensland. The following steps of the overall project are consistent with any project plan to deliver an industrial manufacturing facility.

  1. Concept analysis
  2. Business case
  3. Pre-feasibility study
  4. Feasibility study
  5. Implementation/plant construction
  6. Operations/fuel production

The overall goal is to evaluate and help enable commercial biofuel manufacture in Queensland, with demonstration levels of production within the next five years. The end users will primarily be the Australian airline industry but the fuel, in the form of biodiesel, would also have customers in agriculture, mining and transportation. Other potential end users are the US Navy and Australian Navy, who have a strong strategic relationship and a significant requirement for aviation and diesel fuel. The US Navy will sail a Great Green Fleet in 2016 and has committed to obtaining half of its energy use from alternative sources by 2020.

Current AIBN research: sugar cane conversion

The laboratory part of the project involves engineering microbes to improve fuel production from sucrose. Initial modelling has shown this route to be the most advanced of the three biomass sources under consideration and feeds into an established Queensland industry with existing capital and infrastructure. AIBN expertise is in engineering microbes to convert carbon from sucrose to produce chemical compounds which can be used as aviation fuel molecules. It is important that the performance of these molecules in the sustainable aviation fuels match those presently used in aircraft. Matching the physical and/or chemical make-up of existing fuels will create a drop-in biofuel which will ensure planes and fuel distribution infrastructure does not need to be converted to accept the new fuel.

Current AIBN research: techno-economic modelling

Techno-economic models are being developed based on open and accountable information from journal reports, patents and industry to answer important questions about the process of manufacturing sustainable aviation fuels from the three feed stocks. The models deliver averaged cost estimates for fuel production; identify the process bottlenecks; and identify where research should be focused to achieve the highest impact on cost reduction towards viable industrial production.

A PDF version of more information is available. This provides a forum to disseminate the results and for review, discussion and the updating of results. The aim of the PDF is also to provide clarity and consensus on biofuel production feasibility for scientists, engineers, government and the wider community.

Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative section


'Food crops offer fuel for thought' The Courier Mail. 23 November 2013.

'Oranges and lemons, algae, sugarcane and Pongamia seeds could all one day regularly power planes by providing the jet fuel of the future. The aviation industry is partnering with Queensland researchers as the notion of aeroplanes powered by biofuels becomes reality.'

'Lemons fly as the new juice of jet travel' The Australian. 09 October 2013. Read.

'Airplanes powered by lemons might sound like the psychedelic dreams of a back-to-nature hippie, but it is a vision fast becoming reality in a hi-tech scientific laboratory at The University of Queensland. As oil and petrochemicals become scarcer and more expensive, Claudia Vickers, a senior researcher at the Systems and Synthetic Biology Group at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology has turned to lemon peel, sugar cane and yeast bacteria to produce clean and renewable jet fuels of the future.'

'What happened to biofuels?' The Economist. 07 September 2013. Read.

'Scientists have long known how to convert various kinds of organic material into liquid fuel. Trees, shrubs, grasses, seeds, fungi, seaweed, algae and animal fats have all been turned into biofuels to power cars, ships and even planes. As well as being available to countries without tar sands, shale fields or gushers, biofuels can help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by providing an alternative to releasing fossil-fuel carbon into the atmosphere. Frustratingly, however, making biofuels in large quantities has always been more expensive and less convenient than simply drilling a little deeper for oil......'

'Ground-breaking Australian study benchmarks biofuel pricing' UQ News. 22 May 2013. Read.

'Ground-breaking Australian research on the viability of aviation biofuels has today been released, at the culmination of almost three years of work by The University of Queensland, James Cook University, The Boeing Company, Virgin Australia, Mackay Sugar and IOR Energy. The results of the unique study as part of the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative have been published in the international journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining and were presented today at the Boeing-hosted Aero Environment Summit in Sydney.......'

The story was covered in the Sydney Morning Herald here and The Australian here as well as in the Biofuels Digest here.

'Sustainable aviation fuel from sugarcane a step closer' AIBN News. 16 August 2012. Read.

'Moves to use Queensland sugarcane to fuel jets have taken a step forward, with funding for an alliance of researchers and global industry leaders. The Queensland State Government Research Partnerships Program has provided $300,000 to the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuels Initiative.......'

'US Navy here to talk biofuels' UQ News. 06 February 2012. Read.

'The United States Navy's Director for Operational Energy today visited The University of Queensland for discussions on UQ's world-leading biofuels research. As the US Department of Defense actively pursues ambitious targets and new “green” fuel sources for its energy requirements, the US Navy's Chris Tindal met biofuels researchers and industry leaders at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at UQ in Brisbane.......'

'Plant power for the planes of tomorrow' The Courier Mail. 19 November 2011. Read.

'Researcher in Queensland have welcomed news that Qantas next year is looking to power its first commercial flgiht using sustainable fuel. "We want the flight to be an inspriation, a preview of a sustainable future for Australian aviation," the airline's boss Alan Joyce said at an Australian Airports Association meeting in Brisbane this week. The University of Queensland is involved in research to create sustainable biofuel for the aviation industry from a number of organic sources.......'

'UQ wins $6.5 million for groundbreaking research projects' UQ News. 07 May 2010. Read.

'A University of Queensland-led global consortium that aims to produce environmentally friendly aviation fuel from algae is one of four UQ research projects awarded a total $6.48 million in State Government funding this week. The grant means UQ's St Lucia campus will become the base for world-first aviation biofuel research, which has airlines Boeing, Virgin Blue and United States-based green energy company Amyris as backers.......'


Useful QSAFI and Biofuel Links





Virgin Australia

IOR Energy

Mackay Sugar Limited

General Electric

James Cook University, School of Marine and Tropical Biology

Professor Rocky de Nys

Associate Professor Kirsten Heimann

University of Queensland, Institute for Molecular Biosciences

Associate Professor Ben Hankamer

University of Queensland, Centre for Integrative Legume Research

Professor Peter Gresshoff

University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

Dr. Ralph Dietzgen

Professor Robert Henry

Biofuel News

Biofuels Digest

New Energy World Network

Biofuel Links

Australian Initiative for Sustainable Aviation Fuels

Biofuels Association of Australia

QSAFI Model Downloads

Algae Based Process Model

These models are updatable, and therefore subject to change. Please ensure you have the latest version of the model.

    Download Algae Based Process Model

Current Model Version: v2.0

Pongamia Based Process Model

These models are updatable, and therefore subject to change. Please ensure you have the latest version of the model.

    Download Pongamia Based Process Model

Current Model Version: v2.0

Sugarcane Fermentation Process Model

These models are updatable, and therefore subject to change. Please ensure you have the latest version of the model.

This model has been divided into two separate models to allow accurate modelling of the different operating bases.

Please note that the Sugarcane Mill Process does not include accurate costing information. This model was an exercise on M&E balances. Please refer to the manuscript for an explanation.

    Download Sugarcane Mill Model

    Download Fermentation Process Model

Current Model Version: v2.0

SuperPro Designer

These models have been developed in SuperPro Designer and to use the model please follow the following steps:

  1. Download the SuperPro software. A free demo version can be dowloaded here. If you own a license to the software, feel free to use it. The model runs on version 8.5. For more information about the software requirements or specifications, please contact Intelligen directly.
  2. Download the relevant flowsheet file (see below).
  3. Open the SuperPro Software, and then open the file you downloaded in step 2.
  4. You can explore the data populated in the flowsheet, or can change the parameters and run the model again.
  5. If you want to UPDATE the model, please follow the instructions found here.

Questions or comments can be directed to Daniel Klein-Marcuschamer.


    Download all models