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Sugarcane waste-to-fuel research

The Palaszczuk Government is funding next-generation research to turn sugarcane waste into liquid fuels and chemicals – transforming Queensland’s agricultural industry.

Speaking from QUT’s Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant today (Friday), Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said Advance Queensland Research Fellow Dr Kameron Dunn will receive $180,000 over three years.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to building a biocommodities industry in Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

“Our vision is for a $1 billion sustainable and export-orientated industrial biotechnology and bioproducts sector – one that attracts significant international investment, and creates regional, high-value and knowledge-intensive jobs.

“An industry of this nature can only advance with collaboration from both government and industry investment – underpinned by world-class research and development happening right here in Queensland.”

Ms Enoch said the bio-refining sector is emerging worldwide as a major industry.

“Queensland has the potential to become a leading global producer of bioproducts and technologies, creating new markets for both technology developers and agricultural producers, as well as providing significant regional development prospects for the state,” she said.

Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert said the new industry has the potential to diversify the local agricultural sector.

“It could create new income streams for farmers, provide greater opportunities for regional communities to develop and grow, and create more jobs across all sectors,” Mrs Gilbert said.

“We have a strong agricultural sector that can provide a large and sustainable supply of biomass, and we have advanced facilities in biomass processing to help us remain competitive across our industries.”

The Palaszczuk Government funding to Dr Dunn will be matched by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and industry partners including NilWaste Energy, Queensland Urban Utilities and Southern Oil, which recently launched the $16 million Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant in Gladstone. The project partners operate in biomass, solid waste, sewage treatment and waste-oil refining industries.

Dr Dunn, from QUT’s Centre of Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, said his research will increase the competiveness of Queensland’s agricultural industries by moving into the production of biofuels and biochemicals.

“Biorefinery innovation is happening around the world. Our sugarcane industry needs to diversify and tap into other non-sugar markets to make the industry resilient against increased competition and fluctuating world sugar prices,” Dr Dunn said.

“Bio-refineries are expected to generate significant amounts of waste lignin (product), which is not easily biodegradable and which in normal circumstances has no real value.

“The same can be said for the waste generated by the recycled oil industry (asphalt), the sewage treatment process (biosolids), and from municipal solid waste (end-of-life plastics).

“If we can add value to these waste products, then we can open up a whole new stream of revenue for these industries.”

QUT’s Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant supports Dr Dunn’s research project through the pre-treatment of bagasse by producing sugarcane lignin. This lignin is then processed at a QUT pilot plant facility in Brisbane.

Advance Queensland is the Palaszczuk Government’s $420 million flagship initiative to drive innovation across the state and turn great ideas into new products, businesses and jobs.


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