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Pilot plant turning sugarcane waste into jet fuel, diesel, plastics prepares to flick switch

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As politicians combat over local weather change in Canberra, a plan to show sugarcane waste into gas is powering on within the coronary heart of cane and coal nation. 

Simply metres from a sugarcane mill that’s supplying them with a byproduct from the crushing course of, the pilot plant is about to flick the swap for the primary time. 

US firm Mercurius has teamed up with the Queensland College of Expertise (QUT) to trial the know-how onsite in Mackay.

The plant makes use of bagasse, a byproduct from the crushing course of, to create renewable merchandise that not solely cut back the necessity for fossil fuels however take CO2 from the environment. 

CEO and know-how growth director of Mercurius, Karl Seck, mentioned it was a necessary subsequent step of the trial earlier than they hope to begin commercialisation. 

“I have been accused of being too optimistic previously however it’s doable we may begin constructing industrial crops in three years’ time.”

From trash to fuel

The tools seems to be like an not possible maze of pipes and tanks. 

It converts a spread of biomass feed shares, reminiscent of cane bagasse, into “drop-in” fuels that may be tailor-made to make use of as jet gas or diesel, in addition to bio-based plastics.

A man in hi-vis and an orange hard hat looks at the camera in front of grey pipes.
Karl Seck spent years working within the oil business and mentioned it is previous time for a renewables uptake.(ABC Rural: Melanie Groves)

Mr Seck mentioned it was additionally a more economical and sooner type of know-how that at the moment exists. 

“The sugarcane bagasse, which is what’s left over whenever you squeeze the sugar out of sugar cane, that is the biomass that we feed into the highest [of the machine],” Mr Seck mentioned. 

The primary trial will run the tools totally for 3 months. 

“We have operated the tools with water to verify the tools is leakproof and all of the tools operates correctly,” Mr Seck mentioned. 

QUT’s Centre for Agriculture and Bioeconomy challenge chief Darryn Rackemann mentioned it was the primary time their facility has had tools taking a look at chemical conversion applied sciences.

“That is the primary stage of demonstrating that is possible and will be doubtlessly economical,” Dr Rackemann mentioned.

“We’ll take a look at acquiring information so we will scale up the know-how.”  

Industrial options to international issues

Whereas debate rages amongst the federal Coalition over local weather change, tasks reminiscent of these at QUT’s biocommodities facility are providing potential commercially-viable know-how for the longer term. 

For Mr Seck, who spent his earlier profession working within the oil business in the US, it’s time to catch up. 

Two men in hi-vis and hard hats hold bottles of fuel and bioplastics.
The method can create a number of merchandise from gas to bioplastics. (ABC Rural: Melanie Groves)

“We must always have been doing this ten years in the past,” Mr Seck mentioned. 

Whereas industrial software continues to be a number of years away,  Mr Seck is happy in regards to the potential advantages his know-how may have. 

“It may truly be carbon destructive, so for each litre of gas that you simply burn, diesel or jet gas, you are truly eradicating CO2 from the environment as a result of we will sequester carbon from our course of,” he mentioned.