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Queensland biorefinery pilot plant gets the go-ahead

In Australia, a pilot biorefinery in Gladstone, Queensland that plans to be the trial site for renewable biojet fuel and diesel production from agricultural and forestry waste is set to go ahead after a funding injection from the State Government. The pilot is supported through the Palaszczuk Government’s AU$150 million Jobs and Regional Growth Fund, which helps to facilitate private sector projects that create regional employment and economic growth opportunities.

Gladstone Biorefinery in Queensland, Australia (photo courtesy Cameron Dick).

In Australia, a pilot biorefinery in Gladstone, Queensland (QLD) that plans to be the trial site for renewable biojet fuel and diesel production from agricultural and forestry waste is set to go ahead after a funding injection from the State Government. US biotechnology process applications developer Mercurius Biorefining Inc. has commenced detailed design of the pilot biorefinery and will begin construction in the coming months (photo courtesy QLD Minister Cameron Dick).

According to a statement, US biotechnology process applications developer Mercurius Biorefining Inc. has commenced detailed design of the pilot biorefinery and will begin construction in months.

New industries mean new jobs and our focus is clearly on jobs. That’s why we’re supporting companies like Mercurius. I met with Mercurius during a trade mission to the US in 2017 and they made it clear they recognised Queensland was committed to developing a biofuels industry, said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Proprietary CO2-free conversion technology

Mercurius Biorefining has developed cutting-edge, patented biotechnology to produce cost-effective drop-in biofuels and biochemicals from non-food feedstocks like sugarcane waste – all without directly producing a carbon dioxide (CO2) by-product

Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said Mercurius’ world-leading biotechnology will bring Queensland a step closer to achieving an AU$1 billion biofutures industry by 2026.

The planned biorefinery pilot represents a huge vote of confidence in the biofutures credentials of Queensland, particularly in the Gladstone region. During its three-month operational period, the pilot biorefinery will provide work for around 30 people. Once the pilot is successfully delivered, Mercurius then plans to build a larger demonstration plant, which would scale up production of biofuels and biochemicals. The demonstration biorefinery would target production of four tonnes of renewable diesel and jet fuel daily and could attract a combined investment value of $11 million and create an estimated 50 jobs, said Minister Dick.

The pilot is supported through the Palaszczuk Government’s AU$150 million Jobs and Regional Growth Fund, which helps to facilitate private sector projects that create regional employment and economic growth opportunities.

As stated in the KPMG bioenergy state of the nation assessment, commissioned by Bioenergy Australia, Queensland in leading the nation when it comes to the development of the bioenergy industry. We’re strongly placed to capitalise on our existing agricultural and manufacturing base and supporting infrastructure, and this is allowing us to take a lead role in the production of renewable fuels, Minister Dick said.

Research support

Through the state’s Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships program, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) also secured AU$300 000 over three years to fund research on Mercurius’ biotechnology at the pilot plant. Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher said Mercurius chose Queensland to develop and commercialise its technology due to the state’s willingness to support innovative projects.

Over the longer term, based on the performance of the pilot and demonstration plants, the company plans to establish up to five commercial-scale biorefineries across regional Queensland. This project is great news for Gladstone in terms of high-value local jobs and investment, and the state government looks forward to continuing working with Mercurius as they move this project closer to commercialisation said Glenn Butcher.

Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said the city was proud to be recognised as a biofutures hub.

I joined the Premier on her 2017 US trade mission. I understand the investment potential that can be unlocked by this innovation. As our economy continues to transition and evolve, it’s crucial we attract companies like Mercurius to Gladstone, to expand the local biofutures industry and create more high-value jobs here in central Queensland, said Matt Burnett.

Biorefinery potential in Queensland

Mercurius Biorefining Managing Director Michael Vevera said that the company continues to see the strong potential of regional Queensland as a leading global biorefinery location.

Queensland is an ideal destination to further develop our patented REACH biotechnology. This is due to the abundance of feedstocks, coupled with the Queensland Government’s continued commitment to build a strong biofutures industry, said Michael Vevera.

President and CEO of Mercurius Karl Seck said the company was attracted to Queensland by the Queensland Government’s Biofutures Acceleration Program in 2017.

Through that program, we successfully completed our scientific validation of the company’s biotechnology last year, which was conducted at QUT. Mercurius is excited to continue working with the Queensland Government, and we look forward to driving this project forward, for the benefit of Queensland’s regional communities, said Karl Seck.

The Mercurius pilot biorefinery will be co-located on the Northern Oil Refinery at Yarwun, with construction scheduled to conclude in late 2019.

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