Sugarcane and cotton waste turned into fuels, plastics, feed

The potential to manufacture high-value products from sugarcane and cotton by-products is one step closer to realisation with an injection of funding from the Australian federal government into a project by Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Professor Ian O’Hara, of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, will lead Phase 2 of the project, which will turn sugarcane and cotton by products into usable materials.

The research is supported by industry-owned body Sugar Research Australia (SRA) and is part of the Rural R&D for Profit program run by the Australian Department of Agriculture.

“Three of the most positive and promising technologies from Phase One have been selected to progress towards commercialisation,” said O’Hara.

Technologies trialled in Phase One include producing animal feed products, which will be demonstrated in animal feeding trials.

“The other area that we’re taking forward is demonstration at a pilot scale of the production of a specialty chemical from cotton gin trash which can be used for the production of fuels and bio-based plastics,” said O’Hara.

QUT’s research into converting biomass into high-value products is partly conducted at the Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant (MRBPP). In Gladstone, the Mercurius Biorefining facility is being used to turn sugarcane waste into jet and diesel fuel, while also producing chemicals than can go into the production of plastic soft drink and beer bottles.