City of Ballarat’s waste to energy plan

City of Ballarat’s waste to energy plan

The City of Ballarat’s plans for a waste-to-energy facility expects to offer a $202 million boost to the economy.

With the City of Ballarat adding up to 6500 residents per year for nearly a decade, landfill sites in the area will only come under more pressure to address the already 30,000 tonnes of waste that flow to them each year.

The regional council has been investigating a waste-to-energy (WtE) facility since 2013, with the potential to divert up to 60 per cent of waste away from landfill.

Earlier in 2018, the city announced it had signed a heads of agreement for a due diligence study with Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhard (MRCB), a Kuala-Lumpur-based construction company, to build the facility. At the time of writing in November, MRCB was continuing to undertake its due diligence work as it had 120 days to complete its end of the agreement.

If the project is approved, construction could begin as early as August 2019, with the site to be operational by 2022.

The $300-million-plus facility, to be based in Ballarat’s West Employment Zone (BWEZ), may also process waste from surrounding regions and is expected to boost Ballarat’s economy by $202 million through building and flow-on effects. It is anticipated the facility will create 419 jobs per year for three years with 120 ongoing jobs.

The economic investment targets reductions in the $18 million waste disposal cost that currently impacts council, with $8 million per annum spent on maintaining the landfill site alone.

So where does the business case lie? The primary rationale for the facility was to attract further investment from companies looking to secure a sustainable and cost-effective power supply.

Terry Demeo, City of Ballarat Director of Infrastructure and Environment, says the plant would be a first for Australia’s eastern seaboard and will provide the region with significant benefits.

“There is potential to deliver new industry type developments to take advantage of the green power supply and establish jobs via the circular economy, effectively using all waste streams to their maximum beneficial use,” Terry says.

Companies in the BWEZ will be able to enter into a power purchase agreement.

According to Terry, the City of Ballarat remains “agnostic” towards which technology will deliver the envisioned benefits. Terry says that it is understood the alignment with technology partner Babcock and Wilcox Volund was a result of the company’s corporate relationships from delivering plants worldwide, including in the US, China, Sweden and Denmark.

The due diligence study will determine how best to approach the project and move forward to produce a business case for council and select a WtE technology.

The process is highly dependent on which technology MRCB identifies in their report.

Communication surrounding the BWEZ has included a WtE facility as a core infrastructure item in addition to being included in its previous two council plans. Terry says that all of these factors provide the council with a social license to operate.

The 438 hectares of available staged development land adjacent to the Ballarat Airport will host the site, an industrial area with businesses across manufacturing, agribusiness, construction, freight and logistics and research and development.

While the economic benefits appear clear prior to the release of the MRCB’s due diligence report, environmental outcomes are dependent on the scope of the project.

The learnings from the work council has received focus on ensuring the feedstock is secured for the long term, the site delivers best practice environmental standards and that there will continue to be a realistic market/offtake for the energy from any plant.

Ballarat is a key part of the Grampians New Energy Taskforce (GNeT) and the proposed WtE plant will be a considerable asset in this partnership.

The GNeT comprises local government representatives, regional partnership members, energy industry and community groups and will develop a roadmap for the renewable energy sector in the city.   

The WtE plan is one part of the city’s commitment to educating the community on contaminant reduction to ensure the market for recycled product continues to grow. The council has also progressed an all waste interchange with a $5 million budget commitment to be built at the BWEZ which would in the long-term provide high-tech sorting facilities to process recyclable materials.

Terry says that once a partner is identified, their technical knowledge will be used to manage and minimise disruption in the BWEZ.

“The City of Ballarat is committed to reducing waste and seeking best value for the waste it diverts from landfill. This includes how we educate the community, the infrastructure we provide for them, the procurement decisions we make and also the policy settings of the state and Federal Government,” he says.

“Encouraging residents to place the correct material in their bins and make use of recycling facilities such as oil, battery, e-waste and mattress services at our transfer station will continue to be a priority.”