ARC Linkage Project success for engineering authority

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


A leading researcher from the University of Newcastle has received $240,000 in funding from the coveted Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project scheme to improve the operation of steam boilers in Australia’s sugar industry.

Sugar cane

Announced yesterday, Emeritus Laureate Professor Graham Goodwin was one of 22 successful recipients of the scheme, which is designed to join researchers with industry to undertake new collaborations that will deliver tangible outcomes to Australia.

Working with Wilmar Sugar Pty Ltd in Northern Queensland, Professor Goodwin will develop new control techniques to improve the safe operation of boilers and enhance capabilities across the sugar industry.

“Sugar plants throughout the world burn their sugar cane residue, known as bagasse, in boiler units to generate energy that powers the sugar factory and exports electricity to the grid.

“While it is a source of renewable energy, it is a challenging material to burn and it is difficult to keep the boiler unit regulated. By developing new control methods, we hope to improve the sugar production and electricity cogeneration capabilities of the sugar industry,” Professor Goodwin said.

Professor Goodwin and his team will apply advanced control ideas used on other processes to sugar mills for the first time.

“Sugar mills are difficult to regulate as the boiler units have highly variable loads operating at inconsistent times, which severely hinders production. Stabilising the process will provide significant benefits to sugar manufacturing and biofuel energy generation in Australia more broadly,” he said.

The University’s Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, said the project was a testament to Professor Goodwin’s reputation and cross-disciplinary achievements.

“Receiving funding from such a highly competitive scheme is a strong example of successful collaboration between industry and our world-class research that will deliver tangible outcomes to Australia and beyond,” he said.

The 22 successful new projects total $9.2 million and will be carried out over the next five years in conjunction with partner organisations.