UNITED Petroleum’s Dalby Bio-Refinery on Queensland’s Darling Downs has reopened to manufacture industrial-grade ethanol for use in the manufacture of hand sanitiser, hand wash and surface disinfectants.
All are in high demand with additional hygiene measures tied to the fight against COVID-19.
Queensland Minister for Manufacturing Cameron Dick said the refinery was re-employing almost all of the 40-plus staff who were placed on leave when the business temporarily shut down on 24 February.
“By making very significant changes to their refinery plant and process, Dalby Bio-Refinery is now able to reopen and re-employ their workforce which will be a huge boost to the Darling Downs community,” Mr Dick said.
“My department has been working closely with the refinery, assisting them to source the chemicals needed to undertake the new production process to produce the higher-grade industrial ethanol.
“We’ve also been assisting to put them in touch with businesses who are in short supply of industrial ethanol, or those who can use the ‘tops and tails’ distillation by-product, such as distillers, making sure everyone’s needs are met.
“It’s critically important that supply chains don’t have any gaps and can continue to operate to manufacture critical products which we need right now.
“Dalby Bio-Refinery was Australia’s first grain-to-ethanol facility, and this turnaround in a time of crisis is a great reflection of Queensland ingenuity shining right across the state.”
Chief operating officer David Szymczak said the bio-refinery had previously produced fuel-grade ethanol and high-value animal feed.
“The drought dramatically impacted the availability of the grain and sorghum we needed to produce our ethanol product,” Mr Szymczak said.
“Our animal feed products kept us operating for a while, but when the drought broke, demand for feed dried up, and a ready-supply of sorghum wasn’t available, forcing us to temporarily shut our doors.
“The Queensland Government has been a very supportive, assisting us with critical supply-chain needs so we can reopen.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing all our employees back in the plant, working to full capacity.”
Dalby Bio-Refinery has now recommenced production, and at peak is expected to produce approximately 150,000 litres per day, of which about 125,000 litres will be suitable for hand sanitisers and cleaners.
“More and more Queensland manufacturers are making essential products to protect us against COVID-19,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“That’s good news in the health fight against the virus and good news in our economic recovery.”
Source: Queensland Government
Other producers respond
Other ethanol producers including Wilmar at Sarina near Mackay, and The Manildra Group, have also increased production in response to a jump in demand for fluid needed for hygiene products in the face of COVID-19.
Manildra Group is Australia’s leading producer of ethanol and, in a Federal Government statement released last month, its managing director John Honan said the company was rising to the challenge.
“As a family-owned Australian business we continue to locally produce ethanol, and we’re committed to operating our manufacturing facilities around the clock to meet demand,” Mr Honan said.
The collapse in global crude-oil values brought about a massive slump in demand caused by COVID-19 on top of a price war from leading producers has seen the call for ethanol fall away.
Grain Central understands this has been a contributing factor in getting biorefineries to alter their production.