AGRICULTURALLY-BASED industries, including cotton production, can generate several million tonnes of waste each year, which typically represent a burden to the industry through expensive waste management. There is, however, potential to convert this trash into treasure.
Cotton gin trash is one such promising renewable biomass feedstock that could support regional biorefineries producing a range of value-added bio-based products such as fuels, chemicals, feeds, fibre and energy.
In a Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC)-funded project, NSW DPI scientists in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of phytochemists and pharmacologist from Southern Cross University and Western Sydney University are aiming to develop scalable, innovative and integrated processes to fractionate, refine and convert gin trash into multiple novel biochemicals and biofuels.
“Gin trash is an ideal low-cost feedstock because unlike other biomass, it is concentrated at processing sites,” NSW DPI’s Dr Shane McIntosh said.
“The study has been designed to evaluate and develop processing methods to exploit the high levels of carbohydrates found in gin trash specifically for the production of bioethanol.
“Moreover, the cotton plant is known to contain many important chemical compounds some of which are highly valued particularly in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, pesticides and fragrances industries.
“The project will explore the full spectrum and potential product application of compounds which can be extracted.
“By developing a consolidated processing configuration, combining a number of different processes into one or maybe a few sequential steps that simplifies the overall processing, significant reductions in production costs can be realised.”
The CRDC will also be investigating the techno-economic feasibility of establishing bio-refineries, and the business model options, as a key component of ‘A profitable future for Australian agriculture: Biorefineries for higher-value animal feeds, chemicals, and fuels’ project.
This is a major collaborative project under the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Rural R&D for Profit programme.
Contact: lead researcher Dr Shane McIntosh: [email protected]
This story first appeared in the winter edition of CRDC’s Spotlight magazine, http://www.crdc.com.au/publications/spotlight-magazine-winter-2017