Albany innovation to transform production of ancient sandalwood oil

Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
Email Sarah Makse
Quintis chief executive Richard Henfrey, Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan, instrument technician Gerhard Burger, seated, and head of production Johan Nortier.
Camera IconQuintis chief executive Richard Henfrey, Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan, instrument technician Gerhard Burger, seated, and head of production Johan Nortier. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

A world-first technology developed and operating in Albany is set to transform the ancient process of distilling sandalwood oil.

The world’s biggest Indian sandalwood producer Quintis unveiled its new continuous steam distillation technology on Friday at its sandalwood factory in Drome.

Created with the help of a $500,000 grant from the State Government, the new technology turns Indian sandalwood grown by Quintis in Kununurra into essential oil which is exported globally.

Quintis chief executive Richard Henfry said by continuously feeding woodchips and steam into the machine it produced four times the amount of essential oil with the same amount of steam.

He said the new technology was an innovation born in Albany which took about seven years to come to fruition.

“Essential oil distillation is a process that uses a lot of energy and water and we have moved from this ancient batch-based process to a continuous process,” he said.

“By doing that we have been able to reduce by 75 per cent the energy and water that we use to create the oil. And actually a knock-on impact that we didn’t expect is that the oil coming off the new line is of a higher quality than the oil that we have produced in the past, so it is a great win-win all round.”

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the expansion of processing capabilities in Albany and Kununurra would create up to 20 jobs.

“This is going to ensure that we can continue to remain internationally competitive in the production of sandalwood and its distillation as a finished product,” she said.

“We are told that the existing process is probably somewhere in the order of 3000-5000 years old and Quintis tells us this is a major leap forward in terms of the technology of the process of distillation of oil from the sandalwood trees so it is a pretty significant leap forward.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails