Queensland’s MSF Sugar has plans to plant 4,000 hectares of agave plants on the Atherton Tablelands to produce part of the feedstock for a $60 million biomass refinery to operate alongside a green energy power station and a distillery at its Walkamin sugar mill.
As well as the agave, sugar cane fibre (bagasse) will be used to fuel the power station, which is expected to generate 200,000 megawatts of electricity annually while producing 55 million litres of ethanol for fuel and 110,000 tonnes of sugar. The electricity will be fed into the Ergon Energy grid.
Agave is currently grown on a commercial scale in Mexico where it is used for making tequila. It grows well in dry land and requires minimal irrigation.
The company will trial large-scale blue agave cropping as an alternative feedstock to sugarcane in the off-growing season, potentially allowing the biorefinery to operate 12 months of the year.
The Queensland Government has provided $250,000 in funding for a feasibility study which will involve the planting of 10,000 agave plants. The first commercial crop is scheduled to be planted in 2020.