Pre-feasibility study to turn sugarcane into energy

Sugarcane growing on fam in sunny North Queensland

Burdekin canegrowers are leading the charge in an effort to turn sugarcane into a sustainable energy product, according to North Queensland Register.

Project B Green is an initiative of Burdekin Renewable Fuels—a progressive group of sugarcane farmers aiming to turn the whole sugarcane crop into renewable chemicals and fuels.

Burdekin Renewable Fuels member Phil Marano says the project is designed to build more value for local growers and the regions.

Related article: Grant supports sugarcane biorefinery in Queensland

“We are looking at fairly new technology—hydrogen, aviation fuel and plastics,” Marano said.

“Our main aim is to build more value for growers and for the region, but also the time has never been better to use cane as an energy crop with climate change and the commitment for a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

“We believe we can help in that process.”

The project began when Burdekin canegrowers were approached to pelletise sugarcane trash for the Japanese energy industry, which ultimately grew quiet due to the effects of COVID-19.

The project has since evolved to utilise the whole crop from a grower led perspective to benefit the grower.

Burdekin Renewables Fuels chairman Greg Rossato said the project utilises processing the whole sugarcane crop to gain its full value.

“We are currently looking to produce hydrogen from the biomass and glycols from the purified sugarcane juice,” he said.

“Glycols for example can make fibres, polyester, the soles of your shoes or plastic packaging.”

The project is also investigating the potential to create sustainable aviation fuel with assistance from New South Wales-based hydrothermal liquefaction and advanced recycling company Licella.

Rossato said the grower group was looking to make biomass-crude oil from sugarcane trash.

“We want to look at using that bio-crude oil to make sustainable aviation fuel.

“We are looking at utilising hydrogen internally to add value to the cane product. You basically use hydrogen and crude together to make aviation fuel.

“There is obviously a long testing time to get accredited, but it is an opportunity we are keen to explore in the future.”

Project B Green is currently in a pre-feasibility stage to identify challenges and gain a full scope to get the initiative up and running.

“The pre-feasibility stage is all about what we can make, how much we can make from our produce and how much it is going to cost to do it, so we can work out whether it is worthwhile,” Rossato said.

Related article: Spoonful of sugar makes longer lasting lithium-sulfur batteries

“It is about the logistics of gathering the whole crop.”

Project B Green is currently concentrating on the two hydrogen and glycol products.

“Once the technology is proven in sustainable aviation fuel, we will look to incorporate it into the project,” Rossato said.

Read the full article here.

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