A Dalby bio-refinery has re-opened to produce ethanol for hand sanitiser. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
A Dalby bio-refinery has re-opened to produce ethanol for hand sanitiser. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Refinery re-opens to produce ethanol for hand sanitiser

A BIO-REFINERY west of Toowoomba has been reopened to manufacture vital stocks of industrial grade ethanol for hand sanitiser and surface disinfectant products during the fight against COVID-19.

The Dalby Bio-Refinery, which had previously produced fuel grade ethanol and high value animal feed, was shut down in late February, placing its entire staff on leave temporarily.

But the company has now restarted production and is expected to produce about 150,000 litres of ethanol per day, of which about 125,000 litres would be suitable for sanitising products.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said almost all of the more than 40 workers had been re-employed as part of the new operation to manufacture vital products.

"More and more Queensland manufacturers are making essential products to protect us against COVID-19," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"That's good news in the health fight against the virus and good news in our economic recovery."

Manufacturing Minister Cameron Dick said the refinery had made significant changes to be able to re-open.

"By making very significant changes to their refinery plant and process, Dalby Bio-Refinery is now able to reopen and re-employ their workforce which will be a huge boost to the Darling Downs community," he said.

"My department has been working closely with the refinery, assisting them to source the chemicals needed to undertake the new production process to produce the higher grade, industrial ethanol.

"We've also been assisting to put them in touch with businesses who are in short supply of industrial ethanol, or those who can use the 'tops and tails' distillation by-product, such as distillers, making sure everyone's needs are met."

Mr Dick said it was important that supply chains didn't have any gaps and could continue to operate to manufacture critical products which were needed right now.

"Dalby Bio-Refinery Ltd was Australia's first grain-to-ethanol facility, and this turnaround in a time of crisis is a great reflection of Queensland ingenuity shining right across the state," he said.

Refinery COO David Szymczak said he was excited to be reopening.

"The drought dramatically impacted the availability of the grain and sorghum we needed to produce our ethanol product," Mr Szymczak said.

"Our animal feed products kept us operating for a while, but when the drought broke, demand for feed dried up, and a ready-supply of sorghum wasn't available, forcing us to temporarily shut our doors.

"The Queensland Government has been a very supportive, assisting us with critical supply-chain needs so we can reopen.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing all our employees back in the plant, working to full capacity."

Queensland manufacturers and suppliers can register what they need and what they have available to keep manufacturing supply chains open via dsdmip.qld.gov.au/qld-supplies.