Human settlements

Renewable energy

Biomass 13: MacKay Region Sugar Mills - Increased renewable energy production through improved boiler efficiency

Renewable Energy Commercialisation in Australia, Australian Greenhouse Office, 2003
NOTE: The status of these projects will have changed since the time of publication, and project contacts may also have changed.

The Sugar Research Institute has made modifications to the bagasse fired boiler at Proserpine Sugar Mill, potentially resulting in significant efficiency gains throughout the industry.

The Sugar Research Institute (SRI) has designed and installed a range of modifications to boilers at sugar mills in the Mackay region and their performance is generating considerable interest in the industry.

The Australian sugar industry has very large potential for cogeneration of electricity from the huge quantity of bagasse by-product. Typically, every crushing season the industry produces over 10 million tonnes of bagasse which is the residue of the sugar cane plant that is left after the sucrose has been extracted. Even though all sugar mills use up the bagasse each year to generate their own heat and electricity to run the factory, there is a large potential for cogeneration. It has been estimated that over 1,000MWe (or 4,000GWh per annum) of electricity could be cogenerated if the sugar factories were modified to become much more energy efficient than they currently are and so better use the bagasse resource.

The capital cost of modifying sugar mills can be prohibitive in terms of the economic viability of bagasse cogeneration. The process area that incurs the largest costs is the steam generation, or boiler plant. One of the ways to attack this restriction is to develop new technologies for boilers that are cheaper to install, give increased output and are cheaper to operate and maintain. The Sugar Research Institute has therefore made boiler efficiency a high priority and the AGO has provided funding for two projects in this area.

With the support of a $200,000 grant under the Renewable Energy Industry Program, SRI conducted the detailed engineering design and financial evaluation of a full swirl burner combustion system (SBCS) retrofit of a full-scale commercial 60,000kg/h steam boiler at Farleigh Mill near Mackay in Queensland. The objective of the project was to confirm the financial viability of the SBCS technology and to improve the capacity and efficiency of existing boilers fired by bagasse.

SRI is also undertaking a bagasse fired boiler project at Proserpine Mill with the assistance of a $1 million grant awarded under round 4 of the Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program. The modifications to the boiler at Proserpine involve three innovative technology components:

These two projects will show that it can be commercially feasible to retrofit existing boilers in sugar mills planning to significantly expand their cane processing capacity and cogenerated power output. The projects will help to pave the way for a wider market uptake of this technology both in Australia and overseas, while making a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse emissions.

For more information please contact

Dr Terry Dixon
Sugar Research Institute
Box 5611
Mackay Mail Centre 4741
Tel (07) 4952 7600
Fax (07) 4852 7699

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