Home Hill News

Fire fails to stop Inkerman Crush

Inkerman Mill Home Hill

THE 2023 sugar crushing season in Home Hill has been planned to commence on Wednesday, June 7 at Wilmar Sugar’s Inkerman Mill, with an estimated crop of 1.8 million tonnes, which is on par with the previous year’s tonnage.

However, soon after the mill responded to a request from The Home Hill News for details of the season start at Inkerman, a fire broke out in the conveyor at the exit of B1 mill on Wednesday afternoon, May 24.

Prior to the fire, Wilmar Sugar’s Burdekin Regional Operations Manager, Paul Turnbull announced that the largest capital project for the Burdekin region this year is the major upgrade to Inkerman Mill’s boiler station, a $13.4 million project, which included a retube of boiler one, which is the largest boiler on site.

Improvements have also been made to boiler two and boiler three in the major upgrade, which Mr Turnbull said, “addresses the reliability issues with Inkerman Mill’s boiler station, which caused lost time in the 2021 and 2022 seasons”.

The works were undertaken by principal contractor, EDMS Australia, which has had up to 45 people on site, working day and night shifts, to complete the project. 

“Stage one of the boiler station works was carried out last year and included remedial works on boilers one and three, ahead of the 2022 crush,” Mr Turnbull said.

“The major capital upgrades have taken place this maintenance season and will improve reliability of the Inkerman boiler station, which supplies steam and power to the factory.”

“All up, we’ve used 11km of steel tube in boiler one – roughly the distance between Home Hill and Ayr.”

Wilmar’s Regional Operations Manager said the next most significant capital project being undertaken at Inkerman Mill this season was stage two of the feeding station upgrade.

“We’re spending $2M on a major upgrade of the A-side feeding station, including a new tippler,” Mr Turnbull announced.

“The B-side feeding station was upgraded ahead of last year’s crush”.

“We’ve put significant focus on the commissioning program for the new feeding station, applying learnings from teething issues when commissioning the B side at the start of the 2022 crush.”

Major maintenance projects at Inkerman Mill also include the replacement of the A4 mill gearing shaft, repairs to the main cooling towers and the replacement of the evaporator LP steam valve.

As for the fire, work is under way to repair the damage, with a project team appointed to carry out the repairs, identify what work needs to be done, develop a work plan and order materials.

Mr Turnbull said most of the damage was contained to the 10-metre conveyor and the electrical wiring above that conveyor.

“Fortunately, no one was hurt and our crews did an extremely good job of containing the fire to one part of the factory until emergency services arrived”.

He said Inkerman Mill intended to start crushing on Wednesday, June 7, as planned. “We’re optimistic we’ll have the repairs finished and have both sides of the factory operational for the start of the season.”

A new 26t loco, ‘The Alma’, is also being constructed for the Inkerman area at a cost of $1.8M.

However, a planned project to erect a new cane rail bridge over Kidby Gully has been deferred to the end of the 2023 crush.

Wilmar Sugar has also announced that Glenn Nicholson is the new Production Superintendent of Inkerman Mill.

Mr Nicholson has been with Wilmar since 2009 and has worked across all four Burdekin mills, including most recently as the Assistant Production Superintendent at Invicta Mill at Giru.