Converting industrial waste to valuable products has big benefits

Project dates: 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2021

Project or Program title: Advance Queensland Fellowship – Transforming Queensland agricultural and petroleum waste products into biochemicals and advanced composites
Research theme or enabling platform: Growing the Global Bioeconomy/
Centre for Agriculture and Bioeconomy
QUT project team: Dr Kameron Dunn, A/Prof Phil Hobson, Prof William Doherty, Mr Neil McKenzie, Dr Lalehvash Moghaddam, Ms Wanda Stolz, Mr Adrian Baker, Dr Darryn Rackemann
Partner organisations: Queensland Government – Advance Queensland, Nilwaste Energy, Queensland Urban Utilities, Southern Oil Refining
Timeline: 2017-2021
QUT’s Banyo Pilot Plant

Why it matters

Excessive industrial waste is a global problem affecting our economy, society and environment. Australian agricultural, sewage and industrial hydrocarbon industries generate a significant amount of waste by-products, including sugarcane waste, biosolids, asphalt residue, end-of-life plastics and tyres . Generally, this waste is not easily biodegradable and has no real commercial value under normal circumstances. Minimising, transforming and recycling these waste products into alternative and valuable resources has significant benefits for industry, community and the environment – both now and for future generations.

How the IFE is making an impact

IFE research is supporting the growth of a sustainable industrial biotechnology and bioproducts sector in Queensland by supporting the conversion of industrial waste products such as sugarcane waste and old tyres into valuable and reusable materials and resources.

In partnership with Nilwaste Energy, Queensland Urban Utilities and Southern Oil Refining, QUT is supporting an Advance Queensland Research Fellowship (AQRF) project exploring the ability of the thermochemical technologies called hydrothermal liquefaction and pyrolysis to minimise, transform and recover value adding products from sugarcane waste (bagasse, lignin, vinasse), industrial hydrocarbon waste (asphalt residue, end-of-life plastics, tyres) and sewage feedstocks. The research is being led by Advance Queensland Research Fellow Dr Kameron Dunn from QUT’s Centre of Agriculture and Bioeconomy (CAB). The AQRF is funded by the Queensland Government Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development and the Commonwealth Games through the Advanced Queensland Fellowship Programme.

Over the last ten years, IFE researchers in CAB have developed hydrothermal liquefaction and supercritical fluid extraction capability and pilot infrastructure to transform a range of lignocellulosic materials into biocrude products composed of a matrix of chemicals that when extracted and refined, can be used as pharmaceuticals, flavouring agents, resins, solvents, fuels and even carbon fibre precursors. The AQRF project builds on previous CAB thermochemical research and will investigate product composition, yields and industry process integration and modelling for processing industrial partner feedstocks.

QUT’s industry partners benefit from new income streams, significant reductions in waste transport and disposal costs, energy recovery and in the production and recycling of value-adding and nutrient products. At the same time, these benefits provide protection to the natural environment and create sustainable industries for future generations.

Research infrastructure for the real world

As part of the AQF project, Nilwaste Energy will construct a patented pilot pyrolysis system at the IFE Banyo Pilot Plant to demonstrate and validate off-takes produced from pyrolysis processing. QUT’s Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant also supports Dr Dunn’s research by pre-treating bagasse to produce sugarcane lignin, which is then processed at the Banyo pilot plant facility in Brisbane which houses the QUT pilot continuous hydrothermal liquefaction reactor. Laboratory equipment in QUT’s Central Analytical Research Facility (CARF) will also be used during the project.

Queensland Urban Utilities’ Research, Development & Innovation program supports strategic initiatives that create value for our customers by building organisational knowledge and capabilities through funding, resources and expertise. The opportunity to partner with Dr Dunn, QUT, Nilwaste Energy and Southern Oil Refining under an Advanced Queensland Research Fellowship project is of significant interest to our business.”
–  Matthew Mulliss, Engineer (Resources), Planning Group, Queensland Urban Utilities

Funding / Grants

  • Advance Queensland Fellowship - Transforming Queensland agricultural and petroleum waste products into biochemicals and advanced composites