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Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant

Mackay Pilot Plant

The QUT Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant (‘Mackay Pilot Plant’) is unique pilot scale research and development infrastructure for the conversion of cellulosic biomass into renewable transport fuels (bioethanol) and high value biocommodities in an integrated biorefinery. The facility aims to link innovations in product and process development with the assessment of commercial viability to enhance the uptake of this technology in Australia.

The Mackay Pilot Plant has been funded by the Australian Government through NCRIS Capability 5.5 – Biotechnology Products, the Queensland Government Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation and QUT. The facility is being hosted by Mackay Sugar Limited, one of Australia´s leading sugar manufacturers, on the site of the Racecourse Mill in Mackay, Queensland. In addition to sugarcane bagasse and trash which is readily available from the sugar factory, the facility is also capable of processing a wide range of biomass feedstocks with many of these feedstocks able to be sourced from partners throughout Australia.

Under NCRIS funding guidelines, the Mackay Pilot Plant is available for public and private sector research use, with significant discounts available to eligible researchers.

The Mackay Pilot Plant was completed in 2009 and will be available for use from early 2010. Prospective users of the facility can access both the NCRIS facility in Mackay and the considerable biomass harvesting, transportation, storage, processing and analytical expertise available through QUT. Two full–time employees are based at the Mackay Pilot Plant to assist users with the set–up and operation of the facility and analysis of samples generated. Prospective users are encouraged to contact either the person listed below or the AusBiotech NCRIS Program Manager.

Facilities available include:

The pretreatment reactor is unique equipment constructed from corrosion resistant alloys enabling pretreatment and fractionation with a wide variety of physical and chemical processes including steam explosion, single and two–stage mild acid treatments, alkali and ammonia based processes.

Saccharification and fermentation can be undertaken in bioreactors of varying sizes including 1L, 5L, 10L, 100L and 1000L vessels. Fermentation up to 1000L is undertaken inside a PC2 compliant facility enabling the use of a wide variety of yeast, fungal and bacterial hexose and pentose fermenting organisms and both sequential and simultaneous saccharification and fermentation.

research programs

A distillation column is available for product concentration and recovery.

The facility contains equipment for lignin recovery and functionalisation.

A wide variety of products can be produced on–site from the biomass, depending upon the requirements of the user. Sugarcane juice and molasses can be processed into a variety of fermentation products.

A Mettler Toledo RCe1 reaction calorimeter is available for process development at the Gardens Point Campus in Brisbane. The reactor is a 1L glass reactor for biomass processing at pressures up to 6 bar and contains an in–reactor infra–red probe for measuring reaction progress. The instrument is capable of accurate analysis of reaction kinetics and for undertaking detailed mass and energy balances of biomass and chemical reactions.

Process development can also be undertaken in either the 1L or 18 L high pressure Parr reactors located at the Gardens Point Campus in Brisbane.

QUT has significant analytical capability for biomass characterisation including analysis of:

Biorefineries and Australia's future manufacturing industry

The biorefinery industry is considered a key global growth sector, which aims for sustainable manufacturing. We are taking the lead in developing this future industry in Australia. Our report, produced in collaboration with Deloitte Access Economics and Corelli Consulting, aims to provide an impetus to further develop the local industry. The blueprint for a biorefinery industry in Australia details our steps towards forging a profitable future through partnerships with research and government.

QUT's vision for a biorefinery industry in Australia is further illustrated in the infographic video below:

For more information, please contact:

Ian O´Hara
Phone: +61 7 3138 1551
Fax: +61 7 3138 4132
Email: i.ohara@qut.edu.au