Resources and Energy
Tasmania has a rich mining history in one of the most diversely mineralised places in the world. Tasmanian mines and processing facilities employ more than 3 000 people and in 2017/18 minerals with a total value of approximately $2.093 billion were exported.
Tasmania has a strong, innovative forest industry that sells woodchips, logs, paper and value added forest products such as pharmaceuticals, food additives, clothing and bioenergy pellets to the world. Wood and paper products contributed $230 million in export revenue to Tasmania’s economy in the financial year to June 2018.
Approximately 90 per cent of Tasmania’s power comes from renewable sources, providing electricity users with market advantage in a world increasingly focused on sustainability. Tasmania’s expertise in renewable energy generation is also sought after by international markets, with commercial partnerships underway in the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia and the South Pacific among others.
The forest industry is increasingly participating in the bioeconomy through the production of new products and chemicals from wood. These renewable products are often more environmentally friendly than the products they displace, and certainly provide more sustainable options across a wide range of products – from textiles to bio-polymers. The Tasmanian Government is supporting the emerging bioeconomy by supporting the Norske Skog and Circa Group joint venture, FC5, to produce a new industrial solvent called Cyrene™. Cyrene™ is produced through a novel process based on the conversion of cellulose and C6 Hemicellulose in biomass to levoglucosenone which can be converted into a solvent named Cyrene™ using a catalysed solvent-less hydrogenation reaction.
Solvents such as Cyrene™ are highly sought after by international customers who are in need of non-toxic “green chemicals” to replace existing solvents. Of the six major polar aprotic solvents Cyrene can displace that are used in pharma, agrichemical and many industrial applications, four are being phased out by health and environmental regulations. The global market for polar aprotic solvents such as Cyrene™ is presently around 900,000 tonnes and growing.
The Tasmanian Government represented by the Department of State Growth financially supported the establishment and commissioning of the FC5 Cyrene™ Prototype Plant taking the concept of Cyrene™ production at scale to reality. This allowed production to increase one thousand-fold from what was possible with the previous small-scale prototype technology. The FC5 Prototype plant is testing technology which has the potential to support commercial scale operation, capable of providing the market with reliable and regular quantities of a completely new, sustainably produced organic solvent which is gaining worldwide attention.