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Environment industries archive


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Waste Minimisation and Energy Efficiency - NSW Sugar Milling

NSW Sugar has been an outstanding achiever in waste minimisation and energy efficiency , generating practically no production waste and on its way towards significant COČ savings. Energy efficiency improvements have saved nearly $1m a year at its Harwood plant alone.


The NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative Ltd grows sugar cane and mills and refines it into white sugar. It has plants at Condong, Broadwater and Harwood and employs around 400 people. The company's first mill started in 1874 but it did not begin refining until 1989 when the sugar industry was deregulated. Before that the company's sugar was sent to Queensland which held a government controlled monopoly. A period of major investment in refining followed which allowed added value to the product and greater stability for the company.

The company has traditionally found agricultural uses for many of its wastes but moving into refining significantly increased its energy costs - the increase in fuel cost at Harwood alone was over $1 million a year. The company sought ways of reducing these costs through energy efficiency programmes and later programmes to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2000 the company's Energy Management Team at Harwood won the 2000 Energy Smart Champion Award of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA).

The Condong Plant

The Condong Plant

The process

The sugar cane is harvested and transported to the three milling plants. It is shredded and crushed in the mill to extract the juice. The juice is then heated to evaporate the water and the syrup crystallised to produce raw sugar and mill molasses. In the refining plant the raw sugar is refined by dissolving in water, filtering and re-crystallisation to produce molasses and white sugar.

Steam is used for direct motive power, for generating electricity and for heating. The boilers are fired with bagasse (cane fibre) but, since the refinery started, the Harwood boiler has also burnt saw-mill residues and coal.

Cleaner production initiatives

Various waste minimisation  and energy efficiency initiatives have been implemented.

Waste minimisation:

Effectively no production waste is generated through the following:

Energy efficiency

In 1998 an Energy Management Team was formed at the Harwood Mill and Refinery. A fuel balance and audit was carried out and this identified areas of waste and inefficiency and areas for improvement.

Advantages of the process

The various initiatives have resulted in significant financial and environmental benefits. 

Savings have been achieved in costs of coal and waste disposal and at Broadwater gains have been savings in costs of purchased energy and revenue from electricity sales.

At Harwood energy efficiency savings have been nearly $1m a year and savings in COČ emissions have been 10,000 tonnes a year.

Cleaner production incentives

Besides NSW Sugar's commitment to environmental improvement and these initiatives have been driven by cost and productivity considerations. Government incentives for renewable energy also influenced the investment at Broadwater.


No significant barriers were encountered in implementing these initiatives other than the challenges of ensuring that new processes are economical.

Further developments

The success of the cogeneration initiative at Broadwater has led to the company considering a joint venture with Delta Electricity for a 30 MW co-generation project at each sugar plant.

Government targets for increased supply of renewable energy, allowing a premium price for renewables, and electricity deregulation allowing a competitive market price for power, has added to the potential viability of the scheme.

It is intended that all biomass from the cane fields will be burnt in the plants, including leaves and other material presently burnt in situ. This will provide fuel for round the year running.


Bruce Lamb
Manager, Technical Services
NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative Ltd
Harwood Island, NSW 2465
Ph: 61 2 6640 0400
Fax: 61 2 6646 4550
Web site:

Date of implementation: 1997-2001.
Date of further initiatives: Ongoing.
Case study prepared: July 2001 by Centre of Excellence in Cleaner Production, Curtin University of Technology
Date last modified: July 2001.