WHAT was once a paw paw farm in Yarwun is now a multi-million dollar laboratory that is leading the way for renewable fuel creation.
Yesterday Northern Oil's biocrude and biofuel laboratory was officially opened, marking the latest milestone for Gladstone's industry newcomer.
The site, at Yarwun's Northern Oil Refinery, is filled with more than $5 million worth of technology which will be used by the Gladstone plant and other companies around the world keen to break through into the lucrative industry of renewable fuels.
The lab, which is the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, will test raw fuels for their suitability to be turned into biofuel.
Managing director Tim Rose said lab technicians had already used the equipment for minor testing purposes.
By April next year it's hoped the Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant will be ready to start producing crude oils, at which point the project will offer more job opportunities.
"These jobs are for anyone with an operational background, but really there's nothing else like this in Australia so we will be training people from scratch so we're looking for people who are smart and switched on and are willing to learn and understand this equipment," Mr Rose said.
Already two apprentices are learning the ropes of what is the most advanced technology in biofuel testing in Australia.
A federal government initiative, Australian Renewable Energy Agency, helped fund the laboratory by throwing in $2.37 million.
Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd credited Mr Rose and Northern Oil for bringing the project to Gladstone so quickly.
"This used to be a paw paw farm," he said.
"It's fantastic that five years ago Michael introduced me to Tim ... This is amazing how quick it's turned around."
Mr O'Dowd said it had been a "tug of war" with federal minister Michael McCormack for the project, who wanted it for his electorate in Wagga Wagga.
Minister for small business Michael McCormack said at the opening Northern Oil was among the best "industrial slash environmental" companies in the country.
"The significance of this is not lost on people around the world, they will be watching this very closely ... This is innovation at its very best."
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