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Trash can become fuel treasure

Australian rubbish will lead a new ethanol drive for transport fuel under a process developed in the US.

Rubbish will move into the fuel frontline in 2014 when the Flex Ethanol Australia plant comes online in Victoria in a deal that links the Coskata company to a consortium that includes GM Holden and the Victorian Government.

Coskata already has a pilot ethanol program in the US but is using wood chips, not rubbish. It will switch to full-scale production in less than two years.

Victoria will take up the rubbish collection in a deal that could eventually end the world's reliance on potential food sources -- mostly corn in the US -- for automotive fuel.

Coskata vice-president James Frawley told carsGuide: "The technology is right today. We're hoping that is as soon as the Australian consortium moves forward".

"There is going to be a huge market. Our technology is cost-competitive with gasoline as a transport fuel."

His company rocked the fuel business when it first announced the rubbish-to-ethanol plan and its backing from General Motors, but it has been very quiet since then.

Now Frawley is happy to confirm the success of a pilot production plant in the US and the plans to go international, not only in Australia but to other countries including China and Brazil.

"This technology can go anywhere in the world. There are governments looking at Coskata technology as well."

The Victorian plant could eventually turn up to one million tonnes of household, industrial and building waste into 200 million litres of ethanol each year, for use in the E85 fuel being rolled out across the country with backing from Holden.

The Commodore is already E85 compatible and Holden is committed to the fuel for all future models.

"We're in a position to now move to the next stage of the process, which is scaling up to a commercial design and full-scale processes," Frawley says.

He forecasts that ethanol-from-rubbish plants have the potential to eventually supply half of the world's transport fuel needs without any impact on food or land use.


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