The Isis farm striking gold with pine oil
SOME travel the world looking for gold but for Ray Mountfort, his gold is pine oils and he's had his eureka moment near Childers.
The managing director of Essential Queensland, set up his oil extraction factory in Isis Central and was already making waves in the industry.
Having secured the 20ha spot in October last year, Mr Mountfort said they built the extraction plant in three months.
He said they'd recently sent their first container to Japan, the first pine chemicals to be manufactured in Australia and exported from Australia.
Mr Mountfort said he believed he could make an extraction process of pine chemicals and he'd done just that, producing turps and rosin.
He said turps smelt like pine but was used as a base-chemical. Once converted, there's more than 5000 chemicals that can be made from it, including those used in women's perfume, fragrance in cleaning products and even strawberry flavouring and fruit essences.
Mr Mountfort said the rosin, or pine gum, could be used to make chewing gum.
Having been in the pine industry for about 20 years, Mr Mountfort said he'd been all over the world looking for resin trees and the trees around Childers were ideal.
"I'm here because I was looked in Africa, I've been to India, I've been up in Europe, I've been involved in projects all over... looking for resin," he said.
"You've got guys looking for gold or whatever, for me it's pine chemicals."
Mr Mountfort said the oil extraction was accomplished by a simple change of state.
He said as the steam went past the chips of wood, the oil attached itself to the vapour which was condensed by water. Then because the oil is lighter, in a separator, the oil stays on the top of the water and then goes through a salt wash to remove any impurities.
He stressed the importance of understanding how pine works, which was plantation-based and farmed like sugar cane, harvested and replanted.
Mr Mountfort is no stranger to pine, growing up in New Zealand his parents had a pine forest farm and he's spent the past 18 years developing the process to extract pine chemicals non-destructively.
Mr Mountfort said their ethos was a sustainable and non-destructive extraction process.
He said one of their greatest achievements was "getting a supply contract for resin, the first of its kind in the world".
"This is our first process, this is the first process in the world that's making pine chemicals non-destructively from logs," he said.
Being based in Isis Central, their factory base has space, high impact industry zoning, water and access to trees.
Mr Mountfort said in the context of logging, the local supply has 150km radius and there was 160,000ha of pine in the catchment.
To take advantage of the supply, Mr Mountfort said the next stage was to get a second plant up and running. It's expected to be financed by April/May to enable them to produce both products.
He said the second plant would create 10 jobs, but they don't plan to stop there, ideally he wants to put in a larger multi-million facility.
"The plant that we need to put in to meet our customers' requirement is $22 million and would create another 50 jobs," he said.
Mr Mountfort said he was proud of his current team and their success to date.
He said everyone involved was passionate and had their own story on how they ended up at Essential Queensland. There are eight of them currently working at the plant.
Mr Mountfort said he envisioned becoming a processing hub for essential oil extraction, working closely with his daughter and her palmarose business (see page 3).
He said in a day they could process 100 tonnes of pine tree and the goal was to put through 100 tonnes a day, seven days a week.
"We'll lead the way and others will jump on," he said.