An alternative approach to biorefinery – A K-pulping process

Queensland University of Technology

  • Project code: PRJ-004837

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Sunday, May 30, 2010

  • Project completion date: Monday, December 19, 2011

  • National Priority: NEPI-Feasibility studies and industry literature reviews


In 2006, Australia imported more than 1.6 million tonnes of paper products, accounting for 88% of the trade deficit in the wood products sector of $1.8 billion. Within the nearby Asia Pacific region (particularly China), demand for paper is expected to grow at 6% to 12% per annum, depending upon grade. High value paper products (e.g. tissues) use a combination of short fibres, such as sorghum fibre and hardwood (e.g. eucalyptus). Recently, tests have shown that Arundo donax, with similar physical properties to eucalyptus, can replace it as feedstock in paper making. The proposed project will evaluate potash pulping technology and demonstrate an economically viable small scale industrial process to produce market pulps from Arundo donax and sorghum. In addition, a good quality potash fertiliser would be produced as a by-product of the process. As the proposed project will use chemicals on a ‘once-through’ basis, the need for a chemical recovery plant is avoided. This will reduce the capital cost of a pulp mill by 30%. A consequence of using the proposed technology is that competitive pulp mills can be built with much lower scale capacity and reduced water usage than required for a traditional Kraft (soda/sulphide) or soda process.


New and Emerging Plant Industries

Research Organisation

Queensland University of Technology

Objective Summary

Enviro Fibre and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have been investigating an alternative biorefinery approach that in the short-term (unlike other proposed biorefineries) will deliver revenue for investors. This approach aims to: (a) produce Arundo donax and sorghum pulps, and fertiliser (b) produce cellulosic ethanol, (c) have zero effluent discharge, and (d) reduce carbon footprint. The proposed project will evaluate innovative technologies to produce market Arundo donax and sorghum pulps, and good quality fertiliser. This project will realise its objectives through the following activities:
*Optimise and demonstrate potash/additive fractionation of Arundo donax /sorghum to pulp for paper production and black liquor for conversion to fertiliser.
*Optimise bleaching and operating conditions for Arundo donax/sorghum pulp to achieve suitable brightness and quality for the manufacture of towelling products.
*Demonstrate the production of towelling products using Arundo donax/sorghum pulp in a commercial paper machine.
*Optimise and demonstrate the chemical conversion of black liquor to produce organic-inorganic fertiliser.
The project is truly a collaborative project involving, QUT, Enviro Fibre, ABC Tissue Products, Advanced Nutrients and a senior consultant, Dr Chris Williams (Expert Agronomist, formerly of SARDI).