Trial funded to turn sawmill waste into diesel and bitumen

Sawmill scraps and sawdust could soon be turned into renewable diesel and bitumen as a result of a $1.2 million feasibility study, funded by the Federal Government and Boral Limited.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has agreed to grant Boral with $500,000 towards the study, with Boral providing the remainder.

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The study will trial a mechanical catalytic conversion technology, developed by Spanish-based Global Ecofuel Solutions SL, along with initial design works for the full-scale plant, exploration of the regulatory challenges and development of the business case.

Boral will explore the technical and financial viability of establishing a biorefinery using this technology near its Herons Creek hardwood sawmill, near Port Macquarie, NSW.

If successful, the proposed biorefinery would cost around $50 million and could convert up to 50,000 tonnes of waste sawmill residue produces each year into transport grade diesel and renewable bitumen.

Sawmill residue, which includes sawdust, remnant woodchips, shavings and offcuts, is currently used for lower value uses such as landscaping and boiler fuel.

Boral consumes a large amount of diesel and bitumen, using around 100 million litres of diesel a year to operate its business in Australia. The company estimates the volume of timber residues should create around 16 million litres of diesel and 8000 tonnes of bitumen.

Boral Building Products Executive General Manager Wayne Manners said if the study was successful, the diesel and bitumen produced at the potential new biorefinery could eventually account for up to 15 per cent of Boral’s annual needs.

“The application of this technology has the potential to transform the way we use low value hardwood sawmill residues into a resource that could be highly valuable, not just to Boral, but to the industry more generally,” he said.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project further shows that big businesses are increasingly moving towards renewable energy solutions.

“If this ground-breaking technology is successful, we hope to see a transition to similar biorefineries by other companies which have a waste stream in forestry or agriculture,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The transport sector is a significant user of energy in Australia, with liquid fuels a key long-term energy source for heavy-vehicle road and air transport since they cannot readily be electrified.

“Bioenergy comprises a growing proportion of Australia’s energy mix, and this new technology could see residue from the production process be used to reduce Boral’s reliance on diesel and bitumen derived from fossil fuels,” he said.

Waste timber used to power Ballarat disability services

A Ballarat social enterprise has begun using waste timber that would have been stockpiled or landfilled to cut down on its energy bills.

The project is the first being developed through the Ballarat Community Power Hub, a $900,000 program run by Sustainability Victoria.

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The Community Power Hubs program is being trialled for two years in the Ballarat, Bendigo and Latrobe regions to help communities make the transition to community-owned renewable energy systems.

Sustainability Victoria acting CEO Jonathan Leake said the Ballarat Community Power Hub has provided $6500 and considerable volunteer hours to help McCallum Disability Services access a new biomass boiler.

“A biomass system would reduce energy costs by $100,000 a year and be paid for in seven years,” he said.

“The 2000kw system will be powered by locally-sourced timber waste, operate well-under Environment Protection Authority emissions requirements and produce relatively little ash.”

Greenhouse gas emissions of up to 560 tonnes could be achieved if all natural gas is replaced.

“Importantly, reduced energy costs will allow for the expansion of services to provide additional employment for people with disabilities,” Mr Leake said.

The program is contributing to the Victorian Government’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and having 40 per cent of the state’s energy needs coming from renewable energy by 2025.

Albury City receive close to $2.5M for recycling boost

Albury City’s Waste Management Centre will receive almost $2.5 million from the NSW Government to boost the city’s recycling capabilities.

A $2 million grant will enable the council to build a construction and demolition recycling plant at the Albury Waste Management Centre to recycle waste that would have ended up in landfill.

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An additional $445,840 will go towards funding new pallet shredding and de-nailing technology for the recycling plant.

The machinery is expected to be able to recover more than 5100 tonnes of timber from discarded pallets every year, which will then be potentially used as an industrial fuel or for projects requiring a wood product.

The funding package will also help pay for the development of a local recovery centre to recover steel and textiles from an estimated 3200 mattresses a year.

Albury City Mayor Kevin Mack said the new construction and demolition recycling centre would be an important boost to the community’s efforts to halve the amount of waste sent to landfill.

“As a community, we’re leading the way in recycling and reuse of goods at the Waste Management Centre and this new facility means we can find new uses for thousands of tonnes of commercial waste such as masonry, timber and metals,” he said.

“It will not only provide a social and environmental benefit, it will also turn rubbish into valuable products that can be used for new construction projects, such as road building.”

The council expect to reach its target of halving the amount of waste sent to landfill by 2020 with the help of the new facilities and the community.