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Sugar Facts – Electricity Co-generation and Biofuel

Australia’s sugar mills are almost self-sufficient in energy.  By burning the fibrous cane by-product, bagasse, mills generate electricity and steam to power all factory operations. 

Burning bagasse

Over 50% of the electricity produced is exported to the national grid – currently providing clean, green electricity to over 170,000 Queensland households. A recent $75 million investment in Far North Queensland’s Tablelands will add 24 megawatts of electricity – enough to power over 26,000 homes (see ABC Landline feature from 14 October 2018 here). 

The natural plant by-product, bagasse is recycled and used as boiler fuel in the sugar mills. It is burned at temperatures of up to 800?C to produce steam, which is either used as heat for the milling process or to drive turbines that generate electricity. This process is called co-generation.

Sugar mills contribute over a quarter (27%) of Queensland renewable energy and over 2% of Australia’s large scale renewable energy target.

Fast Fact

One truck load of bagasse stores enough energy to power two Queensland homes for more than a year.

Bioethanol

Harvested sugarcane is transported to sugar mills for processing.  During the production of crystallised sugar, a by-product (molasses) is produced. 

Molasses is used as a feedstock to produce ethanol.  During the ethanol fermentation process a rich biological waste product is produced called Dunder.  The dunder is collected in dams and is put back on our fields as soil treatment for sugarcane crops.

Ethanol is sold in many markets including the transport industry.

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