Tasmania 

Chemical companies

History

The Tioxide titanium dioxide pigment plant at Burnie was closed in 1992. It had been operating since the 1950s using imported ilmenite and treating it with sulfuric acid produced at the metal smelter at Risdon (near Hobart). 

A calcium carbide plant operated near Hobart from the 1940s through 1979 being used to manufacture acetylene including in the 1950s for use by ICI at Botany, New South Wales.

The Aluminates Group - manufacturer of aluminium chemicals.

Gas

A 305 km undersea gas line by Duke Energy International (DEI) will bring gas to Tasmania at a cost of A$400 million. The 714 km line includes 305km of undersea pipe to bring gas from Longford in Victoria to Five Mile Bluff near Bell Bay in Tasmania. It is dues for completion in first half of 2002. 

The gas will be to replace fuel oil for one of two oil-fired 60 Mw generators at Bell Bay (operated by DEI for the Hydro Electricity Commission); the ABM (merging with Canadian Ivanhoe Mines) Savage River iron ore pellet plant and potentially for the Crest magnesium plant. 

Alkaloids

Since 1972, Tasmania, supplies 40% of world demand for raw narcotics, and is in 2003 worth an estimated A$50 million at the farm gate and A$200million in exports.

The poppy plant, (Papaver somniferum) when mature, contains pharmaceutical alkaloids in the walls of its poppy capsule or ‘crown’. While a poppy capsule can contain up to 20 different alkaloids, the morphine, codeine and thebaine alkaloids are the principal alkaloids sought.

The world industry, its extent of production, and procedures, are ultimately controlled by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

 For security reasons, alkaloids cannot be stored so each year's crop size is limited by the expected sales demand. The US as the world's largest consumer of legal narcotics has agreed during the Cold War to purchase 80 per cent of its requirements of morphine from just two countries, Turkey and India.  However thebaine is not covered by the 80:20 rule. (Thebaine during the plant growth transforms from codeine and then to morphine).

Twelve hundred farmers now grow the crop in Tasmania. Growers need a company contract, and a licence from the Tasmanian Poppy Advisory Control Board, to grow the crop.

Once licensed, a grower applies to one or both pharmaceutical company which stipulates the acreage a farmer can plant. Intensive R&D by the two companies has seen the alkaloid levels rise from an already high 2 per cent to 3 per cent. Payment to the growers is according to yield and at 2 per cent assay, is $855 per tonne of crop which can be $5500 per hectare.

Processing involves thrashing to remove the seed from the straw (concentrated poppy straw, CPS). CPS contains between 40 and 80 per cent alkaloid. 

Two poppy companies operate in Tasmania, Tasmanian Alkaloids and GlaxoSmithKline

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Tasmanian Alkaloids is owned by the US company Johnson and Johnson has developed a new variety of papaver somniverum in which the thebaine is the main alkaloid and so bypasses the 80:20 rule. It now supplies 90 per cent of the world's thebaine. It converts the CPS to codeine and other active pharmaceutical ingredients in Tasmania.

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British owned GlaxoSmithKline collects its dry poppy capsules or ‘poppy straw’ for processing in Victoria. British owned, it is not subject to the 80:20 rule and sells most of its product to Europe and the UK and now the world's largest producer of morphine .

Trade profile for chemicals (ex TradeData)

bulletSee also national chemical industry and trade performance.
A state by state comparison (five digit resolution available on request).
bulletWestern Australia
bulletSouth Australia
bulletNew South Wales
bulletQueensland

 

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Regional activities

Click on the name of region or state for details. (Under development) Map of Australia showing described regions

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Chemlink Pty Ltd ACN 007 034 022. Publications 1997. All contents Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Products and companies referred to are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders. URL: www.chemlink.com.au/