August 7 – Tully Sugar Limited

Today we left On the Wallaby Backpackers Lodge and headed to Tully to tour the sugar mill. Along the way we stopped at Millaa Millaa Falls. Most of our group was brave enough to jump in the freezing cold water and swim out to the waterfall. After that chilly pit stop, it was back en route to Tully Sugar Limited.

Millaa Millaa Falls

Millaa Millaa Falls

The city of Tully is located in North Queensland and Townsville and is known for its high levels of rainfall. The sugar mill usually cuts around 2.85 million tonnes of sugar cane in a normal season. However, due to the cyclones the area has been hit with in the past few years, the mill will only cut about 1.5 million tonnes this year. Tully Sugar Limited works a 17-week season between the months of June and November and employs 100 extra people during this season.  The mill employs 200 full-time employees year round.  Tully Sugar Limited is one of the largest sugar mills in Australia. Surprisingly, Tully Sugar Limited does not supply any of its products to Australia. The mill only exports to the United States and Japan. Australia gets their sugar from the city of Bundaberg.

Tully Sugar Mill Visitor Centre

Tully Sugar Mill Visitor Centre

Tully Sugar Mill Boiler (1 of 3)

Tully Sugar Mill Boiler (1 of 3)

Tully Sugar Mill Control Room

Tully Sugar Mill Control Room

The total process of producing sugar takes roughly 8 hours. First, the cane is brought to the mill on the energy-efficient railway. It is then taken to the tippler where it gets weighed twice, calculating the net weight value for the grower in which the cane came from. After being weighed in the tippler, the cane moves on to the shredder where a large magnet removes all the metal out of the crop. Due to the cyclone, there has been a lot more metal than usual. When our guide showed us the bin of removed metal, we saw a piece of a ceiling fan! It was surprising to see what kind of debris ended up there. After the metal is removed, the cane goes thru five crushing mills to remove as much sugar juice as possible. The first mill calculates the juice’s commercial content of sugar (CCS) and then the farmer’s payment is based on the cane’s weight as well as its CCS value.

Metal removed from the raw cane - including someone's ceiling fan from cycloe Yasi

Metal removed from the raw cane - including someone's ceiling fan from cyclone Yasi

The sugar cane contains some soil and other materials when it arrives. To get rid of these unwanted materials, the juice is heated and the unwanted particles settle out in the clarifier, and then are taken to a rotary vacuum which gets out any left over juice. The “mill mud” gets taken out 12 tonne truck loads at a time to go back to growers to be used as top soil. The juice is then turned into a thick syrup which is then turned into crystal sugar by adding sugar as water is evaporated. The sugar crystals are then taken to the centrifuges where the crystals are separated from the syrup by being spun at a high-speed in metal baskets. A burst of hot water is used during the spinning process to help wash the molasses off the crystals. The molasses is then sold and used as stock feed and fertilizer. After the centrifuges, the crystals are then moved to the sugar driers where excess water is taken out with the help of two air conditioning units. After that 8 hour process, the sugar is ready to be shipped.

Centrifuge separating sugar and molassas

Centrifuge separating sugar and molasses

After learning about the process of sugar-making, our group headed back to the bus and we were off to Magnetic Island. We took a ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island just in time to see the sunset on the beach.



7 responses to “August 7 – Tully Sugar Limited

  1. Megan Permoda

    Sounds like an interesting place, Amy. 😉 Looks like you’re all having fun!!!

  2. Looks like you’re having a great time, Amy. What beautiful Falls! See you soon 🙂

  3. It was great to see a large corporation like Tully Sugar Mill adopting sustainable practices such as generating their own electricity from mill by-product, and moving towards low emissions. I definitely had large businesses stereotyped as wasteful, polluting, and unconcerned with the environment, but visiting this and other locations has proven that that is certainly not always the case. In fact, manufacturers can have a positive impact not only on the economy and area in which they are located, but on the attitude of employees, peers, and citizens towards the environment.

  4. Adding onto what Katie said, I’m surprised that more companies don’t follow Tully’s example because the return on burning the waste product is absolutely astronomical. They produce 18 megawatts of power, a great number in and of itself, but they only use 8 megawatts of that and get to sell 10 megawatts to Australia. From this, they made over 2 million dollars while eliminating their electricity bill and they actually have the ability to ramp production of power up even more if the need or opportunity ever arises. I think that this is a very sustainable business practice that other companies should adapt, as it only makes sense since it negates waste, increases profit, and is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

  5. I thought the amount of steps involved in producing sugar was astounding! I didn’t realize the amount of machinery and manpower went into producing something we use on a daily basis. It is good to know where your food comes from. Often times in today’s world people are completely disconnected from the point of origin of the food they eat. It is better to be educated so that you know exactly what you are putting in your body.

  6. The Millaa Millaa Falls were truly breath taking. Swimming in that water literally took your breathe away but was an amazing experience. To add to the Tully Sugar Mill, I had no clue what it took to produce sugar. It was amazing see all the machinery and the steps to producing quality sugar.

  7. I thought it was interesting why Tully only exported their sugar. The reason is because they are situated right near a large port. It is more profitable to send it out by ship right there than to send by land. Originally i thought they exported because of policy or surplus but it ended up not being that way. I was also intrigued by the fact that the large smoke stacks that we saw on the way in did not end up being as much pollution as i thought. It turned out that of the two smoke stacks, one released water vapor only and the other one was only 8 percent smoke. Some things arent always what they seem.

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