Mackay biorefinery pilot plant ready for take-off

Published Wednesday, 13 October, 2021 at 10:57 AM


Premier and Minister for the Olympics
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and Minister Assisting the Premier on Olympics Infrastructure
The Honourable Dr Steven Miles

World-leading technology has landed in Mackay, bringing Queensland one step closer to a $1 billion sustainable, export-oriented industrial biotechnology and bioproducts sector.

Mercurius has finalised commissioning and is about to commence operations at their pilot plant that will use their patented REACHTM technology to produce valuable renewable chemicals, diesel and jet fuel from sugarcane waste.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Mackay, which is in the heart of sugarcane country, was the perfect place for this trial to take place.

“I first met with Mercurius on a trade mission to the United States in 2017,” the Premier said.

“They were attracted to Queensland because of my government’s commitment to developing a biofuels industry here.

“This project signals the start of a new industry for the region which means local jobs and further strengthens Mackay’s credentials as a leading biorefinery location.

“The plant at the Queensland University of Technology’s Biocommodities Facility in Mackay will be fully operational over a three-month period.

“My government has helped get this project off the ground, providing support through the Jobs and Regional Growth fund.”

Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert said it’s an exciting time for the region with the project providing jobs for around 30 people.

“It’s great to see equipment finally here and being commissioned,” she said.

“I’m proud that Mackay is now going to be looked at on a world stage during this three-month trial.”

The technology converts a range of biomass feedstocks into:

  • highly price-competitive, renewable ‘drop-in’ fuels that can be tailored for use in jet and diesel engines (unlike biodiesel, the fuel requires no modification for retail sale)
  • renewable chemicals for bio-based industrial plastics such as bottles, textiles, food packaging, carpets, electronic materials and automotive applications.

The REACH™ process avoids the need for the use of pure sugars, high operating temperatures and high pressures, resulting in faster conversion rate and lower cost of production than current processes.

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Steven Miles said the project was only the beginning for Queensland’s biofutures sector.

“We will bring more high-value jobs to the regions and make more things in Queensland,” Mr Miles said.

“The industrial biotechnology and bioproducts sector will attract significant international investment and create regional, high-value and knowledge-intensive jobs in manufacturing.

“Regions like Mackay are perfectly placed to take advantage of the opportunities this industry presents.

“If the operations are successful Mercurius will also prepare studies for another demo facility to be based in regional Queensland which would scale up production leading to even more jobs.

“Supporting projects like this is part of the Queensland Government’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan.”

Representatives from QUT will work alongside Mercurius to examine the technology and valuable by-products to enhance commercialisation opportunities in Queensland.

Mercurius CEO and Technology Development Director Karl Seck has been in Mackay assisting in site preparations for the pilot equipment installation and commissioning.

“Queensland was the best location for us to run this pilot plant and we hope to see success so we can move forward with plans for a larger demonstration plant,” Mr Seck said.

“The potential broader economic and environmental benefits derived from our REACHTM technology is significant for both the region and the low carbon intensity biofuel industry and we are excited to get started here in Queensland.”

Project leader from QUT’s Centre for Agriculture and Bioeconomy and Advance Queensland Research Fellow Dr Darryn Rackemann welcomed the progress on the project.

“This is transformative technology and to be part of the pilot process is fantastic”, Dr Rackemann said.

“QUT will be looking into the commercial opportunities from the REACHTM technology which could lead to producing renewable fuels and chemicals in Queensland creating new jobs and opportunities for regional communities.”

This project has been funded through the Jobs and Regional Growth fund and aligns with the Queensland Government’s Biofutures industry development roadmap and action plan to support and inspire Queensland businesses secure their share of the global bioproducts and services market.


Media contact: 

Zoe Russell (Premier’s office) – 0439 982 347