New technology that could eliminate the need for fossil fuels in the sugar industry will be tested in Mackay over the next three years.
Queensland University of Technology Associate Professor Ian O’Hara will speak at the Australian Society of Cane Technologists conference today about the new project, which could enable the industry to generate its own fuel source.
The idea is to take cane trash and bagasse and use it to create biogas, and then biomethane.
This could then be compressed and used to run tractors, cane trains and trucks.
“What we are seeking to do is to create new ways, cheaper ways, of creating transport fuel from sugar cane bagasse and trash,” Assoc Prof O’Hara said.
“We are converting surplus bagasse and trash residue from the field into biogas.”
Biogas was already used in other agricultural industries, he explained, and methane could be derived from it.
Instead of selling it as electricity, they would produce biogas and upgrade it to methane, for the sector to use for power.
The biogas would reduce the need for diesel, which is both a polluting fossil fuel and a cost for the industry.
The project would cost $5.7 million over the three years.
Earlier this month it received some of that money from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the only project in Queensland to receive ARENA funding.
Pilot and factory scale trials for the project would take place in Mackay, Brisbane and at Broadwater Sugar Mill.
These would begin within the next 12 months.
Assoc Prof O’Hara said some of the technology that laid the groundwork for this project had been in the pipeline for years.
“The intent of the project is to move rapidly towards commercialisation,” he said.
“Who knows? In three years maybe we will see tractors in the Mackay district running on biogas produced from surplus bagasse in the region.”
If successful, the project would see cane transport fuelled by sugar cane byproducts in three years.
It’s the first time the idea has been trialled in the world.
Source – Daily Mercury