REPORT: Agricultural waste to fuel multi-billion manufacturing industry in Australia
A report conducted by the Queensland University of Technology highlights the potential for bio-refineries to produce $20 billions worth of plastics and fuels over the next two decades.
Ian O’Hara, principle research scientist, believes the industry could support in excess of 6,000 jobs and would bring great benefits to primary producers.
“Not only can they continue to produce their existing crops, whether it be sugar or cotton or grains, but from the waste products they can now also produce value-added products,” he said.
The report finds the available biomass in Queensland could support seven bio-refinery projects spread throughout the State.
“We're talking about almost anything that can be made from petrochemicals can also be made from biomass,” O'Hara said.
The nbsp;report examines using feedstock such as sugarcane to produce polyethylene and resins, brigalow regrowth to be converted to aviation fuel and sorghum in ethanol production.
According to O'Hara, Australia has the 'right ingredients' to make the industry a success, particularly with large amounts of biomass readily available. “Now we're in a position where commercialisation is happening around the world. Queensland needs to get on the bandwagon and start to see the opportunity unfurling here.
“We need industry, government and research (sectors) to really start a discussion about the right policy settings to bring this industry to fruition,” he says.
O'Hara says the current political uncertainty surrounding the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Target shouldn't deter investment. “I think this industry now makes economic sense and that's been one of the fundamental changes over the past two or three years,” he said.
“This industry no longer relies on subsidies or sustainability outcomes, it actually makes good economic sense.”
IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery
After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022.
Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery.
Lingering Concerns Over COVID
Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high.
Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery?
IMF: Current Boom Could Falter
Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”.
Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”.
Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.