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Associate Professor Ian O'Hara

Science and Engineering Faculty,
Dean's Office,
Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities

Personal

Name
Associate Professor Ian O'Hara
Position(s)
Principal Research Scientist
Science and Engineering Faculty,
Dean's Office,
Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities
Discipline *
Chemical Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology
Phone
+61 7 3138 1551
Fax
+61 7 3138 4132
Email
Location
View location details (QUT staff and student access only)
Social Media
LinkedIn
Qualifications

PhD (Queensland University of Technology), Master of Business Administration (Technology Management) (Deakin University), Bachelor of Engineering (University of Queensland)

Professional memberships
and associations

Member, Institution of Engineers, Australia (MIEAust)

Certified Professional Engineer (CPEng)

National Professional Engineers Register (NPER)

Registered Professional Engineer Queensland (RPEQ)

Member, Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists

Keywords

Bio-products, Bioenergy, Biofuels, Biomass utilisation, Biorefining, Industrial biotechnology, Lignocellulose, Pilot plant, Sugar, Sugarcane

* Field of Research code, Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008

Biography

Ian O’Hara is Theme Leader – Bioenergy and Principal Research Fellow within the QUT Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities (CTCB). Ian was responsible for the development of, and is the research program leader for the Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant (MRBPP) – a unique publicly accessible pilot scale research facility in Australia for the development and demonstration of processing technologies for the manufacture of biofuels and bioproducts.

Ian is a Process Engineer with extensive experience in the biofuels, biorefining and sugar industries in research, consultation, policy development, operations management, process design and engineering. Ian works closely with industry and undertakes consulting projects globally in areas including design of greenfield sugar factories and refineries, development of new integrated agricultural precincts, techno-economics, business strategy and other work in the fields of energy efficiency, sugar recovery, sugar quality and process improvement.

Ian has implemented business improvement programs and new payment systems working extensively across the agro-industrial value chain. Ian has been involved in policy development in areas including industrial research, environment, biofuels and renewable energy.

Key Research areas

Ian’s current research interests include:

  • industrial biotechnology
  • biofuels and bioenergy
  • biorefining and biochemicals production
  • process engineering
  • pilot plant development, scale up and process demonstration
  • techno-economic assessments
  • sugar and biofuel production technologies.

Recent research has focussed on the technical and economic development of biofuel and bioproduct production systems including feedstock supply, bioprocessing technologies, techno-economics and systems analysis. In particular this includes:

Biomass pretreatment

  • Use of green solvents for biomass pretreatment including glycerol, other polyols and ionic liquids
  • Lower cost production of fermentable sugars via pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass
  • Pilot plant demonstration of a wide range of pretreatment technologies
  • Mathematical modelling of dilute acid hydrolysis of sugarcane bagasse

Production of bioproducts

  • Production of organic acids, lipids and alcohols via microbial fermentation
  • Extraction and utilisation of lignin for the production of bioproducts
  • Production of biodiesel from new feedstocks and improved production technologies
  • Production of enhanced animal feeds
  • Economic and techno-economic modelling of biorefinery and bioproduct systems including use of complex decision analysis techniques

Sugarcane processing technologies

  • Technical and economic modelling of integrated sugar, biofuels and cogeneration production
  • Modelling of sugarcane processing, sugar production and sugar refining technologies
  • New technologies for processing of sugarcane juice

Selected keynote and plenary presentations

  • Asia Biohydrogen and Biorefinery Symposium (Asia Biohylinks), Malacca, Malaysia (2014)
  • 1st ASEAN Conference on Microbial Biotechnology, Bangkok, Thailand (2014)
  • International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ISSCT) Conference, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2013)
  • R&D Update on Conversion of Renewable Plant Biomass to Fuels and Chemicals, Bangkok, Thailand (2013)
  • Zernike Innovation Series Luncheon, Brisbane (2013)
  • Science Teachers Association of Queensland, Senior Science Conference, Brisbane (2013)

Representation

  • NCRIS Biofuels Access and Strategy Committee (2009-2011)
  • Australian Government Department of Climate Change – Technical Options Development Group – Inclusion of agriculture in the CPRS (2009)
This information has been contributed by Associate Professor Ian O'Hara.

Teaching

Lecturing

  • ENB363 Safety and Environmental Management (for Process Engineers)

 

Industrial training

  • Sugar Industry Chemical Process Supervision course
  • Sugar Industry Advanced Chemical Process Supervision course
  • Understanding the Sugar Industry Value Chain, Sugar Advisory Services Development Program (SASDP)
This information has been contributed by Associate Professor Ian O'Hara.

Experience

Over my career I have worked for many years in industry and developed a robust understanding of the demands and challenges of agricultural and manufacturing industries. Many industries are challenged by the reliance on traditional commodity products in global markets. In these industries, there is a strong need for agricultural and industrial transformation and product diversification in new markets. Opportunities exist through innovation in biotechnology and green chemistry to develop new environmentally sustainable processes and products which meet consumer needs and enhance economic sustainability of industry.

Research

Some of the research projects I have been involved in include:

  • Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuels Development – development and scale up of green solvent based pretreatment technologies for sugarcane bagasse
  • Developing a new renewable food and fuel industry in Australia: sweet sorghum – project was focussed on a systems assessment of sweet sorghum including opportunities for energy, food and feed products
  • The production of ethanol and lignin in a sugarcane biorefinery – project focussed on developing sugarcane biorefinery technologies to value add to bagasse
  • Production of organic acids and lipids by filamentous fungi – focussed on higher value products from sugarcane juice and bagasse hydrolysates
  • Production of biofuels from sugarcane juice using novel processing technologies
  • Reducing the economic and environmental risks of large scale biomass storage – in particular the work focussed on minimising dust emissions from large scale storage

Consulting

Some of the consulting projects I have undertaken in recent years include:

  • Conceptual process design of new greenfield sugarcane processing, raw sugar and refined sugar plants in Australia, Asia and the Middle East
  • Conceptual design and assessment of bioenergy process plants in Australia and Asia including ethanol production, biodiesel production and cogeneration facilities
  • Assessment of new agricultural development areas in Australia to determine economically and technically optimal processing infrastructure
  • Process design of a new facility for the production of fermentation products
  • Process audits of sugarcane factories to assess opportunities for improvements in sugar recovery, sugar quality and energy efficiency

Professional experience

2012 – current, Principal Research Fellow, Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, Queensland University of Technology

2006 – 2012, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, Queensland University of Technology.

2004 – 2006, Senior Executive Officer, Australian Sugar Milling Council.

2003 – 2004, Production Manager, Racecourse Mill, Mackay Sugar Cooperative Association Ltd.

1998 – 2003, Production Superintendent, Mackay Sugar Cooperative Association Ltd.

1990 – 1998, Shift Supervisor, Technical Officer, Mackay Sugar Cooperative Association Ltd.

This information has been contributed by Associate Professor Ian O'Hara.

Publications


For more publications by this staff member, visit QUT ePrints, the University's research repository.

Awards

Awards and recognition

Type
Appointment to State/National/International Reference Group or Government Committees
Reference year
2015
Details
Biofutures Industry Reference Group
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2015
Details
O'Hara, I.M., (2015). Revenue diversification opportunities from sugarcane. Tropical Agricultural Conference (TropAg) 2015. Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia. 18 Nov 2015.
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2014
Details
O'Hara, I.M. (2014). Tropical biorefineries for energy and bio-products. The 1st ASEAN Microbial Biotechnology Conference (AMBC 2014). Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre, Bangkok Thailand. 19 Feb 2014.
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2014
Details
O'Hara, I.M. (2014), Biorefineries - creating economic opportunities from biofuels and bioproducts. Asia BioHylinks Meeting: Asia Biohydrogen and Biorefinery (ABB) Symposium. Mahkota Hotel, Melaka, Malaysia. 16 Dec 2014.
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2013
Details
O'Hara, I.M., Zhang, Z., Rackemann, D.W., Dunn, K.G., Hobson, P.A., Doherty, W.O.S., (2013). Prospects for the development of sugarcane biorefineries. International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ISSCT) XXVIII Congress. Transamérica Expo Center, Sao Paulo, Brazil. 27 June 2013.
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2013
Details
O'Hara, I.M., Pilot-scale process development for biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass. R&D Update on Conversion of Renewable Plant Biomass to Fuels and Chemicals. Thailand Science Park, Pathum Thani, Thailand. 15 May 2013.
Type
Keynote Speaker/Expert Panel Member/Invited Speaker for a Conference
Reference year
2013
Details
O'Hara, I.M. (2013). Bio-based products: new sustainable industries. Zernike Innovation Series. Stamford Hotel, Brisbane, Australia. 27 Sep 2013.
Type
Appointment to State/National/International Reference Group or Government Committees
Reference year
2011
Details
NCRIS Biofuels Access and Strategy Committee (2009 - 2011)
Type
Appointment to State/National/International Reference Group or Government Committees
Reference year
2009
Details
Technical Options Development Group ¿ Inclusion of agriculture in the CPRS
Type
Academic Honours, Prestigious Awards or Prizes
Reference year
2007
Details
Sugar Industry Innovator of the Year Award (as part of the Cooperative Systems Project Team)

Research projects

Grants and projects (Category 1: Australian Competitive Grants only)

Title
Integrated technologies for economically sustainable bio-based energy(Grand Challenges)
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
GCF020010
Start year
2013
Keywords
Biomass,Biofuel, Biorefinery, Ethanol, Alkanes, Lignin
Title
Revenue diversification from sugarcane fibre: novel technologies for the processing of bagasse for low-cost biofuels production
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
QUT051
Start year
2011
Keywords
Pretreatment, Biofuels, Ethanol
Title
Developing a New Renewable Fuel and Food Industry in Australia: Sweet Sorghum
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
PRJ-005254
Start year
2010
Keywords
Sweet Sorghum, Milling, Biofuels, Ethanol, Food, Fermentation
Title
Reducing the Economic and Environmental Risks of Large Scale Bagasse Storage Through Depithing
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
QUT039
Start year
2010
Keywords
Bagasse, Dust, Pith, Combustion, Depiting
Title
Opportunities for the Australian Sugar Industry in Greenhouse Gas Abatement and Carbon Trading (3866)
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
QUT027
Start year
2009
Keywords
LCA, Sugar, Bagasse, Emissions Trading, Renewable, Energy
Title
Current and Future Greenhouse Gas Abatement in the Australian Sugar Industry
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
2008
Keywords
LCA, Sugar, Bagasse, Emissions Trading, Renewable, Energy

Supervision