ResourceCo’s expansion into alternative fuels

ResourceCo’s new Wetherill Park facility has the capability to divert 250,000 tonnes of waste per annum, reducing emissions and saving costs for businesses in the long-term.

With the launch of its new Wetherill Park facility, in Sydney, slated for May this year, ResourceCo is continuing to expand its foray into the alternative fuels markets.

At full capacity, ResourceCo’s Process Engineered Fuel (PEF) facility is capable of diverting 250,000 tonnes of waste per annum, with a production line of 65 tonnes per hour.

Last year, the Federal Government’s specialist financier – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – provided capital for a refuse-derived fuel facility, located in Wetherill Park, about 34 kilometres from the commercial business district. ResourceCo was also successful in securing an additional $5 million in grant funding from the NSW Environmental Trust under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

The facility complements other ResourceCo alternative fuel facilities in Australia and Asia. ResourceCo supply PEF for use in cement kilns, which reduces a reliance on coal and other fossil fuels. Resources such as non-recyclable plastics, paper and cardboard are converted into the alternative fuel, which helps reduce emissions and costs for other businesses as it is cheaper than fossil fuels to use.

Ben Sawley, Chief Executive Officer – Sustainable Energy at ResourceCo, says demand for alternative fuels have been increasing as a result of higher landfill levies in states such as NSW, coupled with skyrocketing natural gas prices.

“Natural gas and electricity have risen dramatically and the long-term projection is this will remain high. It won’t go back to levels we saw 10 years ago,” Ben says.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 2016 National Gas Forecasting Report, the wholesale cost of gas will increase by 48 per cent by 2036. Increases are expected to be driven by rising production costs, combined with the effect of less domestic supply relative to demand. Industrial gas consumption is also forecast to decline by 2036.

At Wetherill Park, ResourceCo plans to take materials that can’t be recycled from recycling facilities and waste collectors, including plastics, cardboard, timber, paper and textiles and convert it into energy. With more than 10 years in the making, planning into the NSW facility started when the company decided to replicate other successful PEF facilities.

Materials with high embodied energy will be shredded, screened, and separated by magnets and air before being shredded again to size the items into a 50-millimetre piece of fuel. Once the process is complete, PEF will be transported to Boral Cement and exported overseas to Southeast Asian cement kilns, including Lafarge Holcim, one of the world’s largest cement manufacturers headquartered in Switzerland.

Ben says that at present, ResourceCo’s PEF facility can only supply to cement kilns, as the combustion process in cement kilns is clean and the exhaust gases do not need to be re-processed. According to the Cement Industry Federation, Australia’s cement industry comprises three main producers, including Adelaide Brighton, Cement Australia and Boral Cement. Ben says due to the smaller market in Australia the company’s future growth will be in Southeast Asia, where there are more than 100 cement kilns in the region. The Global CCC Institute indicates Southeast Asia’s main source of carbon emissions is from the cement industry, generating 57 per cent of the region’s emissions in 2007.

“The barrier at the moment is if you want to burn or consume refuse-derived fuel you have to be able to ensure the emissions from the combustion are clean, so you need to scrub the emissions. Using it in other waste to energy facilities requires scrubbing of exhaust gas and that’s an expensive process,” Ben says.

He says the technology does exist and is being used overseas, but it’s a matter of the private sector finding ways to make it work economically. The fuel is cheaper than natural gas, but the machinery is more expensive, he adds.

“What would be wonderful is if we had more Australian-based energy users who were able to find ways to use the high-quality fuel we make. It seems strange to us in an environment where energy prices are increasing we are exporting fuels, so it would be great to see more local users.”   

“In many developed countries of the world, PEF, or other alternative fuels, can displace more than 50 per cent of cement kiln energy produced by fossil fuels in what is known as a substitution rate.” In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, Ben says hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions will be avoided through diverting waste from landfill.

In the long term, Ben says ResourceCo aims to be a strong contributor to diverting waste from landfill and help other industries displace their use of fossil fuels with PEF.