The biorefinery, according to the Minister for State Development Dr Anthony Lynham, is part of a multi-million dollar investment in 21st century biofutures plants with a potential to generate about 330 local jobs in the Queensland region.

The combined biorefinery will have an onsite bagasse-fuelled 24MW green power station, which can produce about 110,000 tonnes of raw sugar, 200,000MW of green electricity for the grid and 55 million litres of ethanol biofuel annually.

For the project, the company plans to trial large-scale blue agave cropping as an alternative to sugarcane during the off-growing season. This can allow the biorefinery to operate for 12 months a year.

The minister stated that Blue agave can grow well in dry land conditions with minimum irrigation required and this is good news for local growers in terms of future income growth and diversification potential.

According to the minister, Atherton’s MSF Sugar biorefinery will take the state of Queensland one step closer towards achieving its vision for a A$1bn ($772m) sustainable, export-oriented biotechnology and bioproducts sector.

Lynham said: “Acceleration of the Atherton project came out of the Palaszczuk Government’s A$4m ($3m) Biofutures Acceleration Program that offers support to companies to build commercial-scale biorefineries in regional Queensland to process materials such as agricultural and industrial waste.”

“More than 120 parties indicated interest in biorefining in Queensland through the program and 26 submitted detailed expressions of interest.

“The Palaszczuk Government’s funding and support for biorefinery projects will create high-value jobs and investment in regional Queensland by using renewable feedstocks to create biofuel and other bioproducts.

Apart from the Atherton project, there are other biorefinery projects that are being planned in Queensland. These include a biorefinery in another sugarcane region by Amyris, a US-based biotechnology firm, which can create about 70 jobs.

The company plans to produce about 23,000 tonnes of sugarcane based ingredients such as farnesene used in products including cosmetic emollients, fragrances, fuels, solvents, lubricants and nutraceuticals.