An intense wet season in the Far North has brought a mixed bag for the region’s cane growers ahead of the 2018 crush, which will start in early June.
Despite experiencing two major flood events this year, MSF Sugar’s Mulgrave Mill is on track to commence the crushing season on Tuesday, June 12 as planned.
While flooding across the region was widespread, forward crop estimates remain on par with 2017 with 1,272,000 tonnes of sugarcane is expected through the rollers.
This is marginally down on last year’s crop when the mill crushed 1,300,066 tonnes of sugarcane.
The Tablelands Mill will commence its crush on Tuesday, June 5, with estimates indicating an average sized crop.
However, solid rainfall early in the year filled the Tinaroo Dam to 96.3 per cent, a significant increase on 2017 levels which saw the sitting at 38 per cent capacity at the end of the 2017 crushing season.
SunWater allocations to growers are now sitting at 100 per cent and the 2018 crop estimate of 712,000 tonnes is similar to the 2017 season, when the mill crushed a total of 708,572 tonnes of sugarcane.
Work is also continuing on MSF Sugar’s Green Energy Power Plant, which will be turned on mid-season.
Tableland Mill Manager Kirk Lang said the factory had been prepared ahead of the crush to ensure a timely start and following successful steam trials early this month.
“Normal maintenance has been undertaken during the non-crushing season and we expect a good startup this year, with our usual high level of reliability and very little downtime for the factory throughout the crush.
“Our operations have not been impacted by construction of MSF Sugar’s first Green Energy Power Plant, which itself now has 185 people actively working on the site each day. This is in addition to the 172 people we directly employ during crushing season,” he said.
The Mill will operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week until mid-November with an expected crushing rate of 195 tonnes per hour.
The Green Energy Power Plant is due to be turned-on mid-season to convert the Mill’s biomass waste into baseload electricity.
“This is a milestone crushing season for us as in addition to our regular operations, for the first time in MSF Sugar’s history the Tableland Mill will turn its 100 per cent renewable sugarcane fibre known as bagasse into baseload green electricity on a commercial scale,” Mr Lang said.
Mulgrave Mill Manager Chris Hoare said the factory had alos prepared ahead of the crush to ensure a timely start.
“Since last year’s crush, significant investment has been made in the cane rail network with $2 million invested into upgrading cane rail bridges alone,” Mr Hoare said.
“This has greatly improved the overall safety of the network, both for our loco drivers and the wider community.
“We have also invested $900,000 in refurbishing the No.7 Boiler and $350,000 in replacing our cane weighbridge PLC control system to improve reliability and reduce factory downtime in the mill feeding area”.
From June 12, the 2018 crush will operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week and based on an operating rate of 430 tonnes per hour, is expected to run for around 22 weeks.
The Mill will be supplied by 169 growers who in turn will be serviced by 27 harvesting groups.