TOWNSVILLE could become a US Navy fuelling port under a pitch to use North Queensland biofuels to power environmentally friendly ships.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will meet with Pentagon staff today about providing biofuel for the US Navy’s carrier strike group, dubbed the Great Green Fleet, tipped to deploy next year.

The force is part of the US Navy’s push to power half of its fleet by alternative fuels by 2020.

The meeting comes during Ms Palaszczuk’s US trade mission.

A spokesman said: “At this meeting it is expected that the Premier will raise the possibility of the US Navy accessing Queensland bio-fuels from places such as Townsville.”

Townsville MP Scott Stewart said he imagined providing fuel could lead to more naval visits to the city.

“I think it makes a lot of sense to attract the US Navy to the city,” he said. “I think it’s a great start to thinking outside the box to boost the economy.”

Herbert MP Ewen Jones said he wasn’t privy to the details of Ms Palaszczuk’s proposal but welcomed it.

“Obviously she must have a case, a deal she can propagate. I think the concept is a good one. Where I think it needs work, is being actually able to produce those biofuels,” he said.

Mr Jones said he had not had much luck attracting US naval ships to Townsville in the past but this proposal could change that if successful.

“If we could get them to pull into port … it would be almost a sugar hit for our economy,” he said.

Mayor Jenny Hill said it was a great idea and biofuel projects in the Burdekin and Hinchinbrook shires would be positioned to take advantage of any partnership with the fleet.

“It would be worth millions of dollars to our economy,” she said.

“There are very few places in the world that could supply the amount of fuel it might need.”

But North Queensland Bio­Energy Corporation chairman Robert Carey said much more work was needed before Australia was equipped to fuel the fleet, which uses what he describes as a “high-density drop-in fuel”.

He said it was a very expensive fuel to produce and not what the proposed $520 million NQBE sugar cane-based renewable energy facility planned to make.

“The cost in the foreseeable, immediate future is prohibitive,” Mr Carey said.

“While we would look at it, we need to understand what needs to be done to get it to that level.”

Mr Carey said the plant would be interested in being involved if fuel specifications for the ships were changed to an ethanol and diesel blend.

Extracted in full from the Townsville Bulletin.

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