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Australia to turn waste to biofuel

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $3.9 million in funding to a local a private company specialising in renewable energy technologies for the development of the next phase of the company’s energy from waste technology in Collie, Western Australia.

The $9.4 million demonstration plant is being developed by the company in partnership with the Shire of Collie and with $2 million from the WA Government’s Collie Futures Industry Development Fund.

As part of the Project, the company has attracted investment from a consortium of investors closely linked to Sunshot Energy, an emerging energy company co-owned by Professor Ross Garnaut. This consortium will support the future commercialisation of the company’s technology at other regional locations around Australia.

ARENA has previously funded the company to advance and refine their pyrolysis technology from pilot projects that have led to this project that will convert landfill waste and other biomass to energy and biochar. This patented technology was initially developed at Curtin University’s Fuels and Energy Technology Institute led by the then John Curtin Distinguished Professor Chun-Zhu Li with support from both ARENA and WA Government.

The company will design, build and operate a 1.5 tonnes per hour demonstration-scale distributed energy from waste plant that will incorporate the company’s patented grinding pyrolysis technology.

The plant will convert 4,000 tonnes per year of municipal solid waste, which would otherwise go to the landfill and 8,000 tonnes per year of forestry and agricultural wastes to crude pyrolysis oil and biochar. While the crude pyrolysis oil will be sold as a liquid fuel for local industry, the biochar will be sold as a soil conditioner.

The ARENA CEO said this could see other opportunities open up for regional communities to convert their waste into fuel.

Landfill avoidance has become a key issue in Australia due to restrictions on the export of materials to Asia, with approximately 75.8 million tonnes of waste being generated in 2018-19 alone. The company’s project aims to solve some of the current waste disposal problems that are affecting our local councils.

The technology will demonstrate the viability of a scalable distributed energy from waste process, which will use low-value waste to displace fossil fuels and thereby helping to reduce emissions.

While other energy from waste projects is focused on incineration at large centralised plants, the company’s technology is a potential waste treatment solution for regional and smaller towns.

This project is a great example of how ARENA’s support can move technology from early-stage research and concept to demonstration and put it on the pathway to commercialisation. This plant will showcase a 100 per cent Australian technology we are proud to have funded in all key stages of its development, the ARENA CEO sid.

ARENA has previously funded energy from waste projects in Kwinana and East Rockingham in WA, as well as Southern Oil’s pilot plant for the production of renewable fuels in Gladstone and MSM Milling’s biomass boiler in central west NSW.

The design phase will commence this year, and the plant is expected to be operating within two years.

What is bioenergy and energy from waste?

Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy that uses organic renewable materials (known as biomass) to produce heat, electricity, biogas and liquid fuels. The most cost-effective and environmentally beneficial sources of biomass are typically wastewater, municipal waste and waste streams from the agricultural, forestry and industrial sectors.

Bioenergy technologies are well-developed worldwide. Globally, bioenergy was the source of half of all renewable energy used in 2017 and is forecast to rise exponentially. The International Energy Agency’s market analysis and forecast report, Renewables 2018, identified modern bioenergy as the ‘overlooked giant within renewable energy’.

A report for the International Renewable Energy Agency, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017, found the cost of electricity from biomass to be equal to that from onshore wind projects, and well within the range of maximum and minimum costs of fossil fuel generation.

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