Waste Management Review touched down in Sydney in August to attend the Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo and visit numerous resource recovery sites. Toli Papadopoulos reports.
The largest resource recovery and Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF) plant in Australia has been unveiled at Wetherill Park in Sydney.
Owned in a joint venture between resource recovery company ResourceCo and Cleanaway, the plant is licensed to receive up to 250,000 tonnes a year of dry commercial and industrial, and mixed construction and demolition waste, to recover commodities including metal, clean timber and inert materials, with the balance converted into PEF.
Over its lifetime, the plant is expected to abate more than four million tonnes of carbon emissions.
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Cleanaway’s customer base and waste supply in NSW will help drive volume to the facility to divert waste from landfill.
PEF is used as a substitute for fossil fuels in both domestic and offshore markets in the production of cement.
The plant will supply Boral, Australia’s largest construction material company, with PEF for its Berrima cement kiln as a substitute for coal.
Chief Executive Officer Sustainable Energy at ResourceCo Ben Sawley said the new plant will divert up to 50,000 truckloads of waste from landfill, while also reducing reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and gas.
“It will replace over 100,000 tonnes of coal usage per year alone and will take the equivalent of 20,000 cars annually off the road in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Sawley said.
“We’re committed to playing a key role in Australia’s future sustainable energy mix, by reducing waste and lowering carbon emissions through production of a commercially viable sustainable energy product,”
“The opportunity to tap further into this market is huge and it makes good sense, both environmentally and economically,” Mr Sawley said.
Cleanaway Chief Executive Officer Vik Bansal said this is an important new resource recovery solution in New South Wales that creates a landfill diversion option for commercial and industrial, residual recycling, and some construction and demolition waste.
“Investment in resource recovery and innovative waste to energy solutions is essential to making a sustainable future possible, and one of the ways we’re delivering on our Footprint 2025 strategy,” Mr Bansal said.
The project was supported by a funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which had committed $30 million in debt finance to support development of the plant, as well as an additional plant at a second Australian location still to be identified.
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the priority in managing waste must be to reduce the amount waste produced in the first place.
“With what remains, we need to invest in proven technologies to repurpose it, including as alternative fuels. By turning waste into PEF, this facility is showing how industrial processes can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.
“We can also reduce the amount of waste materials going into landfill, an important factor in cutting our national greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Learnmouth said
CEFC Bioenergy and Energy from Waste Sector lead Henry Anning said the CEFC was working with the waste management sector to increase energy efficiency and energy generation, as well as reduce carbon emissions.
“With Australia’s waste sector facing considerable disruption, now is the time to adopt new ways of doing business,” Mr Anning said.
“With the right investment in proven technologies, companies can turn our urban and industrial waste into new energy sources, creating an important revenue stream while also reducing landfill gas emissions.
“In Australia there is a growing commercial opportunity for resource recovery, reinforced by tightening state government landfill regulations. We are working alongside waste companies to invest in long-term infrastructure that can make a lasting difference to the way we handle our waste,” he said.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is lending $30 million to leading resource recovery company ResourceCo to deliver an innovative alternative fuel plant in NSW.
The money will be used to build two new plants that will transform selected non-recyclable waste streams into solid fuel, known as Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF). The first plant is to be built at Wetherill Park in Sydney and the second to be in another Australian state yet to be announced.
PEF is used in cement kilns, reducing the reliance on coal and other fossil fuels. This fuel will initially be used locally, but will also be exported as an alternative to coal and gas for cement kilns in Asia.
Henry Anning, CEFC Bioenergy and Energy from Waste Sector lead, said PEF demonstrated the incredible potential to transform waste, that would otherwise go into landfill, into a baseload energy source as part of Australia’s future clean energy mix, while also lowering emissions.
“Our research into the bioenergy sector has identified investment opportunities of between $2.2 billion and $3.3 billion to 2020 in the urban waste industry. Commercial viability has been driven by a combination of rising landfill gate fees and falling technology costs,” Mr Anning said.
“Waste levies in states such as NSW, the ACT, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria, are improving the business case for this kind of alternative use of the waste, rather than it going into landfill.”
The CEFC finance will enable ResourceCo to accelerate the development of the Wetherill Park plant, and proceed with a similar facility in another Australian state in due course.
Simon Brown, ResourceCo Managing Director said: “Our business operates across both Australia and South East Asia, which places us in a prime position to drive this new initiative forward and make a real difference in the way in which these communities view and deal with waste.”
When operational, the Wetherill Park plant will process around 150,000 tonnes of waste a year to produce PEF and recover other commodities such as metal, clean timber, and inert materials.
As an indication of the plant’s environmental credentials, it has been successful in securing $5 million in grant funding from the NSW Environmental Trust under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative. The technology is also eligible for Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) due to the diversion of waste from landfill.
Mr Anning said generating heat and electricity from bioenergy and waste resources is cost competitive with other new-built energy generation. However, the technologies are not yet widely deployed in Australia.
“Being a throw-away society is a luxury Australia must reconsider. As a nation, we’re producing about 23 million tonnes of landfill each year, causing a growing problem with potential air, water and land quality impacts and generating ongoing monitoring and remediation liabilities,” he said.
“This investment is expected to abate over 8 million tonnes of CO2e over the expected lifetime of the equipment,” Mr Anning added.
The CEFC’s finance for ResourceCo is another example of the CEFC’s focus on delivering clean energy solutions in Australian cities, as part of its Sustainable Cities Investment Program.