World First Agribusiness Project for Atherton Tableland, Australia

Biorefinery Project

World First Agribusiness Project for Atherton Tableland, Australia

The sugarcane industry is set to fundamentally change in Far North Queensland, Australia, following an announcement on July 10, 2017, by the Minister for State Development, Dr Anthony Lynham, of State Government support of MSF Sugar’s biorefinery project on the Atherton Tableland. According to MFS Sugar, once operational, the company's biorefinery project will be a world first initiative that will see the company produce sugar, green base load electricity and ethanol from one location, with all three products manufactured through the effective and efficient use of biomass materials grown locally on the Atherton Tableland.
(ed. WoMaMarcel - 13/7/2017)
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Gordonvale (QLD), Australia – Supporting the project through the State Government Biofutures Acceleration Program (BAP), the announcement by Minister Lynham recognises the MSF Sugar Tableland biorefinery project as one that will deliver on the government’s vision to develop an industrial biotechnology and bioproducts sector in Queensland. Still in its infancy, the sector requires substantial research investment to uncover innovative scientific and industrial technologies designed to convert sustainable waste into bioproducts.

Minister Lynham’s announcement took place at MSF Sugar’s Tableland Mill during a media event on the construction site of another of the company’s major step-change projects, that being it’s green energy power plant which is scheduled for completion in 2018.

The Government support obtained through the BAP will be used by MSF Sugar to complete a farm to market feasibility study that examines all areas of the value chain relating to the establishment of a biorefining industry on the Atherton Tableland, effectively fast-tracking the company’s plans to diversify the industry.

The Biorefinery will be an enhanced sugar mill consisting of four important sections; the sugar mill, an agave juice mill, the green power station and a distillery.  All three products will be manufactured with biomass materials grown locally on the Atherton Tableland.

The sentiment is echoed by General Manager Business Development, Hywel Cook, who states that “through this project, we are transforming the business from a sugar business to a sugarcane business with multiple bio-products. “The AUD 60 million Biorefinery complex we propose to develop is expected to create 80 construction/farming and 50 operational jobs for the agribusiness sector, around 180 jobs and AUD 97 million flow-on for regional businesses, produce 110,000 t of raw sugar, 200,000 MW of green electricity for the grid and 55ML of ethanol biofuel annually. The green electricity will be base load generation operating 12 months per year using the fibre from the sugar cane and blue agave”.

The feasibility study funded through the BAP will consider all processes related to farming the new agave crop, making the biomass products (ethanol and electricity) and delivering the end product to market (customer acceptance). The findings will be used to assess the commercial viability of the project, and inform MSF Sugar’s decision on when to commence project construction.

Following completion of MSF Sugar’s blue agave pilot project and feasibility study, the first year of commercial planting is expected to take place in 2020. The goal is to plant 3.2 million plants per year with agave farming expected to be 800 hectares from MSF Sugar and 3200 hectares from independent farms.

As agave takes 5 years to grow, it is anticipated the first commercial harvest will take place in 2025 with crops harvested at a rate of 800 hectares per year with an anticipated yield of 400 tonnes per hectare.

To deliver on the company’s biofutures vision, MSF Sugar plans to commence construction of the distillery required to round-out the project in 2020, which will require an investment of around AUD 100 million. At least two-thirds of the investment will be spent within Australia and the investment is on top of the AUD 75 million the company has already invested in its Green Energy Power Plant construction.

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