A first step in the journey to develop a proposed $60 million biorefinery complex in the Far North happened recently, with the planting of around 1000 blue agave plants at the MSF Sugar Tableland Mill.

The company is trialling blue agave as a feedstock to produce ethanol biofuel and green electricity. The crop could act as an alternative feedstock to sugar cane in the off-growing season, potentially allowing the planned biorefinery to operate 12 months of the year.

Blue agave grows well in dry land conditions with minimal irrigation required, potentially offering local growers future income growth and diversification opportunities.

MSF Sugar’s $60 million biorefinery project was recently selected to receive support under the department's Biofutures Acceleration Program (BAP). Powered by an onsite bagasse-fuelled 24 MW Green Power Station currently undergoing construction, the MSF Sugar combined biorefinery complex is expected to produce 110,000 tonnes of raw sugar, green electricity for the grid and 55 million litres of ethanol biofuel annually.

The project is expected to generate 80 construction and farming jobs and an additional 50 operational jobs, delivering a boost to the region’s economy. The department's BAP support is directed primarily towards funding the project’s feasibility assessment. A team from the department recently visited MSF Sugar’s Tableland Mill to view the new agave planting and progress of the new Green Power Station.