Waste Management In Action

Repurposed fuel to the fire: Alvan Blanch

The material drying process is essential to improving efficiency. Robust systems by Alvan Blanch are repurposing materials to benefit Australian industries beyond the waste sector.

Cement is primarily used for concrete, the world’s second most consumed material after water.

It’s no secret that concrete has one of the highest CO2 emissions of all building materials, making it a focal point for companies looking to innovate and experiment with its production and application in construction, while decreasing its environmental impact.

Brandown Resource Recovery Centre in NSW was approached by Boral in 2018 to help them explore opportunities to integrate solid waste derived fuels (SWDFs) into the heat energy process at Boral’s Berrima Cement Works.

Typically, SWDFs are made from materials which would have been destined for landfills, space for which comes at a premium in the populated areas of NSW.

As the state expects to reach its landfill capacity in the next 10-15 years, exploring repurposed fuel will positively contribute to the NSW 20-Year Waste Strategy, set out by the state government.

Located in the Southern Highlands region of NSW, the Boral Berrima Cement Works produces up to 60 per cent of total cement products consumed within the state.

Wood Waste-Derived Fuel (WWDF) was added to the site’s planning approval for use in 2016.

WWDF consists of the off-cuts and leftovers of processes working with wood, such as furniture manufacturing.

By the end of 2018, when Brandown was utilising its Alvan Blanch Materials Conveyor Drier (CD) for Boral’s WWDF, the NSW site’s SWDF system was functioning at a rate of 20,000 tonnes per year of WWDF.

During the present 2019-20 financial year, the site aimed to increase its annual SWDF usage rate to 75,000 tonnes per year. It is projected that the target of 100,000 tonnes per year could be reached as early as 2021.

Woodchip drying is a vital part of biomass fuel production which adds to bio solid fuel quality.

A Biomass Energy Centre study indicates that the wetter the intake fuel is, the less responsively the boiler operates. Therefore, the drying process becomes essential to improving woodchip usage efficiency.

Terry Martin, General Manager at Brandown recycling facility, says it was vital to find a CD that met the specific drying requirements set by Boral, as well as being an overall economically viable system.

Martin travelled over 16,000 kilometres to the other side of the world to investigate CD machinery operations.

Following two site inspections in London, England to see the CD’s in action, the Alvan Blanch UK team flew to NSW to assist installing Brandown’s CD in mid-2018.

According to Jim Duncan, Queensland based Manager at Alvan Blanch Australia, Brandown had done a lot of market research and were primarily after a system that reduced moisture in a quick and simple manner.

Duncan credits Alvan Blanch CD’s simplicity as the winning factor that inclined Brandown to order the system within weeks of the company’s initial machinery inspection.

He says the running cost of annual maintenance is very minimal compared to other systems, which is appealing for clients such as Brandown, who are churning tens of thousands of tonnes of material at a rapid pace.

“It’s an extremely robust system and I think the team at Brandown recognised the benefits of a fully automated system, that could integrate into their existing process,” Duncan says.

Once the Alvan Blanch team understood Brandown’s requirements, Alvan Blanch looked further into the heating system to ensure it was as effective as possible.

For Brandown’s specific woodchip drying needs, to be repurposed into WWDF, Alvan Blanch ensured the system’s heat exchange collaborated with their external electricity generation system, which is powered by diesel generators.

“The system is designed to recover some heat from the generation island on site within the CD, allowing the Brandown crew to control the temperature and reduce moisture from its material,” Duncan says.

According to Duncan, reducing moisture from materials is becoming an interesting consideration for Australian waste and manufacturing companies,which is why robust systems are crucial to meet material requirements.

He says more companies are expressing interest in reallocating human resources into smart machinery following the recent pandemic.

“A lot of people are curious about what they need to do in terms of machinery that can be customised to its materials requirements,” Duncan says.

Most recently, Alvan Blanch has been approached by a client in far north Queensland that is interested in a CD for a material the company had never worked with before, all Australian banana waste.

Queensland accounts for 94 per cent of Australia’s banana production. Duncan says that Alvan Blanch’s client is recovering waste from banana production and processing lines and repurposing the content from its CD system as animal feed to the agriculture sector.

“From helping clients service Australia’s largest infrastructure projects to the nation’s largest mammals, it’s safe to say we’re continuing to supply engineered systems that are designed to meet any expectation.”

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