'Hundreds of jobs' to come with new NQ project

Development of the Pentland Sugar Cane and Super Sweet Sorghum trial site, part of the Pentland biofuel project.
Development of the Pentland Sugar Cane and Super Sweet Sorghum trial site, part of the Pentland biofuel project.

HUNDREDS of jobs could soon be up for grabs in North Queensland, with work due to begin within three months on the world-class bioethanol facility planned at Pentland.

Renewable Developments Australia (RDA) company secretary Owen Self said equity investment negotiations were progressing very well, with "positive outcomes" for all parties expected in the near future.

"If we were to be optimistic, we would say work will start within three months," Mr Self said. "If I was to be more pessimistic, I would say six months … but regardless we are progressing well."

A busload of prospective Australian and international investors travelled out to Pentland last week to tour the site RDA has proposed for the $564 million facility.

The company's plans will see sugarcane and sorghum farmed on 19,100ha of land and turned into renewable ethanol fuel. RDA expects around 500 jobs will be offered in the facility's construction phase, followed by around 200 ongoing farm and plant operations jobs once the facility is up and running.

There are also suggestions the development, termed the "Pentland Project", could see Charters Towers benefit from the creation of hundreds of indirect jobs over the next 60 years.

Mr Self said the investment delegation had been impressed by their visit to the Pentland site.

"The delegation was made up of investors and others. It included representatives from Australian investment organisations as well as foreign organisations from Europe and Asia.

"The visit went well … people never fail to be impressed by the project's large-scale scope when they get out there and see it," he said.

It is estimated around 190 million litres of high grade bioethanol will be produced through first generation processing at the Pentland facility.

About 700 kilotonnes of bagasse, a by-product of the diffusion and extraction process, will be created during this process, and will be used to power a 16MW cogeneration plant located on the site.

The facility is designed for expansion to include a second generation ethanol production stage, which will extract a further 150 million litres of ethanol from the waste by-product of the first stage.

Trials are underway to incorporate specially bred super sweet sorghum as an additional feedstock.

RDA has said the ethanol produced at Pentland will be one of the cheapest renewable fuels in the world.

Topics:  jobs north queensland

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