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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Boral’s aggregate spreader to improve road construction safety

Building material company, Boral, has unveiled a new road surfacing truck to make the task safer for workers.

The new Boral FMAS, a Forward Moving Aggregate Spreader, reportedly revolutionises the method of spray seal road construction in Australia.

Until now, according to Boral, the process involved road crews working with reversing trucks that applied the aggregate through an elevated tipper body, increasing the safety risks to workers.

To improve safety and maximise visibility, the Boral FMAS disperses aggregate from the front of the truck via a conveyor belt and spreader box.

Boral National Asset Manager – Asphalt, Stuart Partridge, said Boral designed and developed a Forward Moving Aggregate Spreader following a call to industry by the Victorian roads authority – VicRoads – as a result of a serious accident involving a VicRoads worker some years ago.

“Surfacing roads has remained one of the most potentially challenging tasks faced by construction crews because of the nature of the material being used and the way that material is applied,” he said.

“Rollover accidents, blind spots, and high reversing tippers that can be at risk of interfering with power lines or overhanging trees, are just some of the problems associated with the current range of spreaders.

“So, the task here was to come up with a solution to improve safety for road crews, including drivers, while at the same time making the process quicker, and more efficient with higher quality.

“This invention allows locally manufactured and approved trucks to be substantially modified while still meeting regulatory standards, which is why VicRoads has mandated that forward moving aggregate spreaders should be in use on all its projects by 2022 – a move we hope will be followed by other State road authorities nationally.”

Boral Australia Chief Executive, Joe Goss, said the new Boral FMAS was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to zero harm, placing the safety of all employees and the community in general, at the very centre of the company’s mission.

“This invention speaks to the importance Boral places on keeping our workers safe and our commitment to innovation across all of our products and activities,” he said.

“I want to congratulate Stuart and his team for coming up with such an important invention – and one that will be embraced by the industry nationally and in our view, internationally also. It not only delivers a major improvement in safety standards but will also help to lower the cost of road surfacing because it supports a more efficient and productive process.”

IVECO Australia Managing Director, Bruce Healy, said the company was extremely excited at being involved in the development of Boral’s new Forward Moving Aggregate Spreader.

“Boral has shown innovation and forethought in researching and ultimately developing this vehicle in line with the new industry safety standards in Australia,” said Healy.

“IVECO has a long and proud history as one of Australia’s preferred suppliers of concrete agitators and the like for this industry, so naturally we were very pleased to participate in this project.

“As a local manufacturer with an extensive engineering centre in Melbourne, we were able to advise Boral on the best IVECO platform on which to build their vehicle – the Stralis AD 8×4 – and offer support during the development and build process.

“I’m confident that the new FMAS model will be well-received by the market.”

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.

ResourceCo and Cleanaway open Wetherill Park PEF plant

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.

Cleanaway and ResourceCo’s Wetherill Park facility

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.