Finlay: woodchips to energy

Veolia’s recent moves in the waste-to-energy market has seen them team up with specialist equipment supplier Finlay.

Populations are growing and, as a result, so too is waste generation. Conversely, landfill capacity is declining as urban areas become increasingly dense.

While the waste hierarchy privileges avoidance, reuse and recycling, interest in waste-to-energy as a solution for material that falls through the cracks is growing. Capturing this potential was the driving force behind Veolia’s decision to open a new facility in Horsley Park, New South Wales.

According to site manager Stephen Bernhart, the new resource recovery facility handles wood waste material, which it then processes into a wood chip product.

“After running multiple equipment trials in 2018, we have recently kicked into operation,” Stephen says.

He adds that the wood chip product will be provided to a customer where it will be used as a substitute for coal within a cement kiln.

Veolia’s facility processes a significant amount of wood waste, such as pallets, offcuts and plywood which need to be shredded, and has the capacity to receive 430,000 tonnes of general solid non-putrescible waste per year.

“We have detailed specifications we need to meet to supply our waste-to-energy customer, and a big part of that is ensuring we achieved a material size sub 50 millimetres,” he says.

“It’s quite a challenging task because it’s such a small grade, so we decided to invite multiple suppliers out to the site to run tests and demonstrate their equipment.”

Stephen says Finlay Screening, Crushing and Recycling Systems, a supplier of screening and processing equipment for the waste and recycling industry, stood out during the trials.

“Finlay were heads and shoulders above the rest in demonstrating not just what their equipment could achieve, but how it could achieve it consistently,” he explains.   

Finlay initially trialed a medium speed shredder, however, the resulting material didn’t quite meet specifications. Three weeks later they were back, with a Terex Finlay 693+ Super Track Screening Plant that, according to Stephen, worked extremely well.

“During the second trial there was a large lump of steel which had passed through the primary shredder into the secondary shredder,” Stephen says.

“The TDSV20 shredder shut down as intended, and Finlay representatives opened it up to remove the steel. The machine was back up and running in approximately three minutes – I was very impressed with how the equipment handled it.”

According to Stephen, Finlay also demonstrated how the shredding equipment could maintain the required tonnage throughput in spite of the small material specifications.

In addition to the screening plant, Stephen purchased a Terex Finlay TDS 820 Slow Speed Shredder and a Terex Finlay TDS V20 Mid Speed Shredder and Finlay 5032HD wheeled conveyor.

Built to process bulky, solid waste, the TDS 820 has a two-metre shaft manufactured with a fully welded tooth configuration. Stephen explains that the length allows for significant throughput and size reduction of material.

“The machine’s independent gearboxes enable each shaft to be run separately, which reduces material wrappage and facilitates viable shredding,” he adds.

The Terex Mid Speed Shredder has a twin-shaft, allowing it to perform both primary and secondary shredding. The TDS V20 also has the ability to self-protect against uncrushable material like steel, making it well suited to shredding waste wood materials.

“We have had no trouble meeting specifications after procuring the equipment, all three machines have been running very well.”

According to Stephen, there has been very little down time at the Horsley Park facility.

“There were one or two minor teething issues initially, but Finlay were able to handle them quickly and without fuss,” he says.

Finlay representatives also assisted on-site equipment training when the facility was commissioned.

“They are very forthcoming with their information and we were able to get local contractors trained up on how to run and maintain the shredders and screening plant as well,” he says.

“We are at a really exciting stage in our capability with an eye for expansion, so it’s crucial to have equipment that’s both reliable and efficient.”

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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.

Monash Uni launches research hub to transform biowaste

A new research hub is focused on transforming organic waste into marketable chemicals that can be used for a variety of uses, from medicinal gels to food packaging.

Monash University has launched the Australian Research Council (ARC) Hub for Processing Advance Lignocelluosics into Advanced Materials.

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A total of $6.8 million over five years will be invested into converting biomass and plant-based matter into materials such as cellulose-based hydrogels for personal medicine, nanocellulose films to replace food packaging and nanogels to help farmers maintain their crops.

An industry consortium composed of Visy, Amcor, Circa, Leaf, Orora, and Norske Skog will join Monash, the University of Tasmania, the University of South Australia, the Tasmanian Government and AgroParis Tech as part of the ARC hub.

The research could significantly impact pulp and paper companies, turning them into potential bio-refineries.

Three objectives have been specified to achieve this industry transformation, which involve deriving green chemicals from Australian wood and lignocellulosic streams, engineering new nanocellulose applications and developing ultralight paper and novel packaging. Potential packaging could have significantly improved physical properties, such as including radio-frequency identification technology to integrate with transport or retail systems.

Bioresource Processing Research Institute of Australia Director Gil Garnier said the research will help the Australian pulp, paper and forestry industry transform their production waste into high-grade goods.

“This hub will leverage world-leading Australian and international research capabilities in chemistry, materials science and engineering with the express aim of creating new materials, companies and jobs for our growing bioeconomy,” Prof Garnier said.

“With ongoing support and vision from our government, industry and university partners, we will identify new applications and products derived from biowaste to transform the pharmaceutical, chemicals, plastics and food packaging industries in Australia and across the world.

“In fact, one of the goals is for our industry partners to generate, within four to 10 years, 25-50 per cent of their profits from products that don’t exist today,” he said.

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