NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative's Peter Dibella with can grower's representative Vince Castle at the Harwood Mill.
NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative's Peter Dibella with can grower's representative Vince Castle at the Harwood Mill. The Daily Examiner

Ethanol industry for valley

DON'T be surprised if the Clarence Valley becomes the ethanol capital of Australia within the next few years.

Ethanol Technologies Limited, or 'Ethtec', established a cutting-edge ethanol pilot plant at the Harwood Sugar Mill early last year.

This week, Member for Page Janelle Saffin announced that Ethtec would receive $2.9 million in the latest round of the Federal Government's Climate Ready grants.

The grant - the biggest offered in Australia under the program - will allow Ethtec to develop the next stage of its ethanol project.

Ethtec director and chief scientist, Dr Russell Reeves, said the grant would enable the company to continue its work in producing ethanol from a waste product.

Dr Reeves said the technology would allow ethanol to be produced from almost any lignocellulosic materials, such as the waste-products of sugar cane, forestry and timber mill products - even grasses.

“The world has to come up with an environmentally-friendly, renewable source of liquid fuel for transport,” he said.

“It is recognised that ethanol is arguably the most efficient replacement for liquid fuel.

“That's why there is so much work on this going on worldwide.”

Dr Reeves said the technology Ethtec was using meant that entire crops no longer had to be grown, and destroyed, to produce ethanol.

Instead, the crops are able to be harvested for food products and their waste products then converted to ethanol.

Dr Reeves said he hoped to have the pilot project completed by the end of next year, and if all was successful, a commercial plant could be operating by late 2012.

Local environmentalist John Edwards said using the waste products of crops was the right way to go.

He said there was a huge ethical dilemma involved in the practice of growing crops purely for ethanol production when it meant people in some countries were going hungry.

“Using waste products is good but I would hate to see any agricultural land (in the Valley) being taken up to manufacture bio-fuels,” Mr Edwards said.



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