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Renewable diesel and bitumen to be made from wood waste

Turning sawmill scraps and sawdust into renewable diesel and bitumen sounds far fetched, but could soon become a reality under a plan by building and construction supplier Boral.

Boral’s six hardwood timber mills on the New South Wales north coast produce a lot of wood waste – as much as 50,000 tonnes each, every year.

Currently used for landscaping, boiler fuel and other low-value applications, Boral today announced a plan to explore the viability of turning the waste sawmill byproducts into renewable diesel, bitumen and asphalt.

ARENA is supporting the project, providing $500,000 towards a $1.2 million feasibility study at Boral’s Heron’s Creek timber mill near Port Macquarie.

The study will include a trial of the technology at demonstration scale in Spain, initial design works for the full-scale plant, exploration of the regulatory challenges and development of the business case.

 

If the 12 month study is successful, Boral aim to scale the pilot up to convert 50,000 tonnes of sawmill waste into transport-grade renewable diesel and bitumen. As Australia’s largest building and construction supplier, they use a lot of both.

Steve Dadd, Executive General Manager of Boral Timber, said the high-grade diesel and bitumen produced at the proposed biorefinery could meet 15 per cent of its total needs, while capitalising on a resource which is currently wasted.

“We have to do a lot more and value the whole log,” Steve Dadd said.

He describes Boral’s philosophy of respecting the hardwood resources that are processed at six of its seven NSW mills, seeing the trial as a step in the journey to: “cherish the resource, take all of that biomass and use every skerric of it.”

Boral’s renewable diesel and asphalt plan was developed to address three major operational challenges. The first is the enormous amount of leftover biomass from the timber industry going to waste and low value uses. “The industry economics can’t support all that waste.” he said.

 

The second is the rising cost of energy. “The cost of gas, electricity and eventually diesel and petrol will be a challenge for industry generally, not just for Boral,” he said.

The third challenge Dadd identifies is environmental. “Unless we do something about global warming and move to more sustainable energy uses, we’ve potentially got a serious problem,” he said.

ARENA is supporting Boral to convert its significant volumes of timber waste to valuable biodiesel and asphalt products, which they use a lot of.

If the study is successful, Boral plan to scale the project up to a commercial scale plant which could process 50,000 tonnes of biomass annually – roughly equivalent to the quantity of annual wood waste leftover by the largest timber mill.

Boral projects that volume of timber residues should create approximately 16 million litres of diesel and 8,000 tonnes of bitumen.

“If we get the processes right, it could be very efficient,” he said.

Using approximately 100 million litres of diesel annually across its truck fleet, the biodiesel created would represent a significant reduction in fuel costs. The renewable fuel will be high quality, with potential to power modern diesel cars as well as the fleet of large trucks.

Referring to NSW Government research that shows as much as one million tonnes of surplus biomass could available to be turned into renewable fuel every year, Steve Dadd predicts a bright future for the biofuel industry.

 

“That could be the feedstock for a well-scaled bioenergy industry. It’s a real opportunity to take advantage of that surplus biomass and convert it into very high value products.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project is one example of Australian businesses embracing renewable energy.

“Bioenergy is on the rise. This new technology could pave the way for Boral to reduce its reliance on diesel and bitumen derived from fossil fuels, and utilise waste products left over from production processes,” Ivor Frischknecht said.

He explained, “While today bioenergy only makes up a small part of Australia’s energy mix, that is changing as major businesses embrace renewables to reduce costs and lighten their environmental footprint.

This has benefits for industries currently dependent on fossil fuels: “Renewable liquid fuels provide the best opportunity to decarbonise heavy transport sectors, including aviation, shipping and trucking, which are difficult to electrify,” he said.

“We hope Boral’s trial is successful and leads other companies to build biorefinaries to turn waste materials into valuable products.”

Hardwood Residue Bio-refinery Feasibility Study

Boral could turn sawmill residue into renewable diesel

The Mid North Coast of New South Wales could become home to the world’s first biorefinery turning sawmill residues into renewable diesel and renewable bitumen.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced up to $500,000 in funding to Boral Timber, a subsidiary of Boral Limited, to investigate the feasibility of building a ‘second-generation’ biofuels refinery using the waste sawmill residues from the Boral Timber Hardwood Sawmill at Herons Creek near Port Macquarie.

Under the $1.2 million study, Boral will explore the technical and financial viability of establishing a biorefinery using innovative technology, which would be located near the Herons Creek sawmill.

If the study is successful, the proposed biorefinery, which would cost an estimated $50 million to build, could convert up to 50,000 tonnes of waste sawmill residue produced each year into transport-grade renewable diesel and bitumen.

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

The study will consider a mechanical catalytic conversion technology, developed by Spanish-based Global Ecofuel Solutions SL, combined with the potential biorefinery at Herons Creek and will be the first time the process would be used in a production scale facility.

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

“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.

“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.

Boral Executive General Manager (Building Products) Wayne Manners said that if the feasibility study was successful, the transport-grade renewable diesel produced at the potential new biorefinery could eventually account for up to 15 per cent of Boral’s annual diesel needs.

Boral is one of the largest consumers of bitumen and has one of the largest truck fleets in Australia, using approximately 100 million litres of diesel each year.

“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 media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 122KB)

Sewage sludge to jet fuel

Southern Oil’s plant at Yarwun, near Gladstone

The masses of sludge left over from sewerage and wastewater processing could be refined into renewable diesel and aviation fuel, under an ambitious plan announced today.

Led by Southern Oil Refining, the project has set out to create crude oil from biosolids at their plant near Gladstone in Queensland, which can then be further refined.

Australia produces a lot of ‘biosolids’. Left over from the wastewater treatment process, the term describes solids that remain once sewage sludge has been treated to remove the worst of the pathogens and other nasties.

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the soil-like solids are created every year, much of which is stockpiled, landfilled or diverted to other low value uses such as fertiliser.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is providing up to $4 million to get the project off the ground, seeing potential to make use of a waste product while also decarbonising the transport fuel sector.

Costing a total of $11.8 million, the project’s centrepiece is a demonstration scale hydrothermal liquefaction reactor which will convert wastewater solids into biocrude, which can then be refined further into diesel or even jet fuel.

The pilot will take place at Southern Oil’s Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant in Yarwun outside of Gladstone, where a biofuel and biocrude laboratory was constructed in 2015 with funding from ARENA and the Queensland Government.

Southern Oil Refining have used the laboratory to determine the best ways to make useable biofuel from biocrudes, as well as undertake research to inform their entrance into the commercial fuels markets.

The two-year pilot could be scaled up to a commercial scale, if the demonstration project goes well – opening up the potential for sewage sludge across the country to be converted into oil that can in turn be refined into diesel.

Biosolids. Photo: Melbourne Water

The process isn’t new – biomass was first converted to crude during the oil crisis in the late 1970s, but the technology is coming back into focus as demand builds to create renewable transport fuels with smaller environmental footprints.

Managing Director of Southern Oil Refining Tim Rose predicts a bright future for biofuels on the back of their pilot.

“With waste water treatment stockpiles across the country, this project is entirely scalable and I believe will ultimately lead to the production of hundreds of millions of litres of renewable fuel each year in Australia,” Tim Rose said.

Southern Oil plan to refine crude oil created into high-quality renewable biofuels which can be used in place of conventional petrols.

“This ARENA funding will facilitate Australia’s largest ever demonstration scale reactor using wastewater treatment biosolids to produce renewable crude oil. We will then refine this crude oil into 100 per cent drop-in renewable fuels” Tim Rose said.

“This outcome would greatly benefit the environment, be tremendous for the economy while improving Australia’s fuel security” he added.

Keen to find new uses for the growing stockpiles from their processing facilities in Werribee and Carrum Downs, Melbourne Water Corporation are partnering on the project.

Melbourne Water have more than three million cubic metres of biosolids stocked across the two treatment plants, which they have committed to finding ways to reuse to avoid further stockpiling.

Feedstock for the demonstration project will be sourced close to Southern Oil’s Gladstone plant, but in future the process could be scaled up to take advantage of the Melbourne Water Corporation’s significant volume of byproduct.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project offered a new opportunity to a divert waste product into a renewable source of energy.

“A crucial service like wastewater treatment unfortunately produces a significant amount of waste, so we’re particularly excited to see Southern Oil Refining’s project deliver an option to divert this biosolid waste into a recycled, renewable form of crude oil,” he said.

According to the Climate Council, transport is Australia’s third largest source greenhouse gas emissions and has the highest rate of growth.

“The project is beneficial in continuing to provide decarbonation in the transport fuel sector, particularly in the airline industry with the production of renewable jet fuel, which is a key focus area in ARENA’s Exporting Renewable Energy Priority,” Ivor Frischknecht said.

Melbourne Water’s Manager of Treatment and Resources Jenelle Watson said she was excited to partner with Southern Oil Refining and ARENA to develop the technology to a commercial scale.

“The hydrothermal liquefaction technology has so much potential to extract value from biosolids and contribute to the renewable fuels market,” she said.

Striking renewable oil using sewage in Gladstone

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced funding for a pioneering project aiming to turn biosolids from sewage into crude oil.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA is providing up to $4 million in funding to Southern Oil Refining for its pilot project at its refinery near Gladstone, Queensland.

The $11.8 million project involves building a demonstration scale hydrothermal liquefaction reactor to produce the renewable crude oil from biosolids. The hydrothermal liquefaction will involve the treatment of the biosolids using a thermochemical conversion process to produce a biocrude.

The renewable crude oil will then be upgraded to renewable diesel and potentially renewable jet fuel using Southern Oil Refining’s existing facilities that re-refine waste oils such as transmission and engine oils.

Biosolids are a byproduct of the treatment of wastewater. There are currently over 300,000 tonnes of biosolids produced annually through sewage treatment in Australia.  Currently these biosolids are managed and treated in a number of ways including stockpiling.

Southern Oil has partnered with Melbourne Water and will use stockpiled biosolids at Melbourne Water’s wastewater treatment facility at Werribee, Victoria so as to characterise the crude oil that is produced from those particular biosolids. The project will also utilise biosolids from a local sewage treatment facility. The demonstration is the first step to developing biosolid waste to renewable fuel plants at sewage treatment plants in Australia.

ARENA has previously funded Southern Oil Refining to build a first-of-its-kind biocrude and biofuel laboratory and testing facility built onsite at Gladstone as part of its advanced biofuel pilot plant.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project offered further opportunities for waste diversion while also helping with Australia’s fuel security.
“A crucial service like wastewater treatment unfortunately produces a significant amount of leftover waste, so we’re particularly excited to see Southern Oil Refining’s project deliver an option to divert biosolids into a recycled, renewable form of energy.

“Biosolids are produced at sewage treatment facilities across the country, and often stockpiled so this project could literally turn waste that into fuel,” he said.

Managing Director of Southern Oil Refining, Mr Tim Rose, further highlighted the national implications of ARENA’s commitment to this project.

“This ARENA funding will facilitate Australia’s largest ever demonstration scale reactor using wastewater treatment biosolids to produce renewable crude oil.  We will then refine this crude oil into 100 per cent drop in renewable fuels” he said.

“With waste water treatment stockpiles across the country, this project is entirely scalable and I believe will ultimately lead to the production of hundreds of millions of litres of renewable fuel each year in Australia.  This outcome would greatly benefit the environment, be tremendous for the economy while improving Australia’s fuel security,” he added.

Melbourne Water’s Manager of Treatment and Resources Jenelle Watson said: “The hydrothermal liquefaction technology has so much potential to extract value from biosolids and contribute to the renewable fuels market. Melbourne Water is excited to be partnering with Southern Oil Refining and ARENA to develop hydrothermal liquefaction to a commercial scale.”

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 127KB)

Canola plant embraces bioenergy

Manildra
MSM Milling Manildra canola processing plants

Wood waste leftover from the local timber industry will soon power MSM Milling’s canola processing facility in Manildra, NSW.

The makers of premium canola oil and stock feed hope to annually save 2,500kL of LPG by converting their plant to run on to biomass, allowing them to take control of rising energy costs and reduce their emissions.

The project is one of the first demonstrations of a large-scale food manufacturing company using biomass for thermal energy to reduce their costs and environmental impact, receiving $2 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Less than one per cent of Australia’s electricity needs are met by bioenergy, but the CSIRO have found that organic sources could provide as much as 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply in the short-term.

Queensland’s sugar industry currently accounts for around two-thirds of Australia’s bioenergy production, using biomass in the form of leftover cane mulch to power boilers and create electricity.

ARENA is funding projects to capture energy from a range of waste materials, including sewage, meat processing leftovers, landfill and organic litter.

Manildra
MSM Milling Manildra canola processing plants


How will it work?

MSM Milling have set out to use wood products leftover from the nearby Cyprus Pine industry to fuel their boilers to create heat, which will be used throughout the canola processing facility.

The timber industry has established markets for high-quality wood, but branches, offcuts, forest thinnings and sawdust go to waste.

To minimise costs the oilseed crushing and processing plant will run on woodchips and other raw residues, avoiding the added costs associated with pelletising waste timber.

The refit is the first example of a major food processor converting from gas to bioenergy, which MSM Millings director Bob Mac Smith says will lead the way for other Australian manufacturers to adopt renewable energy.

“Biomass isn’t new in itself, but biomass on an industrial scale and in a food processing facility is novel in Australia,” Mr Mac Smith said.

“There will be an 80,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions over a 20 year time span, and that’s a conservative estimate.”

Bob Mac Smith says MSM Milling face geographic challenges, currently trucking LPG to their Manildra plant which isn’t connected to the gas grid.

“These things have to be highly efficient to work, you need to have the fuel supply closeby, you need to have fuel handling automated… there’s a whole lot of technology that needs to be put together to make this work. A lot of R and D has gone into this because there aren’t turn-key, off the shelf solutions available.

Bob Mac Smith says the forestry waste and sawmill by products will be sourced from within 120kms of their Manildra canola processing facility.

“Being a regional area there are sources of fuel available. In this case it’s thinnings from forest management, there’s also waste or residue from sawmills,” he said.

MSM Milling has received ARENA support to demonstrate that that bioenergy works in large-scale food production applications and overcome ‘early adopter’ costs.

Manildra
MSM Milling Manildra canola processing plants


Demand building to save money with waste to energy

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the $2 million grant will help to grow the underdeveloped biomass industry in Australia.

“Bioenergy currently makes up only around 0.9 per cent of Australia’s energy mix, however the use of wood residues to displace gas is becoming attractive as buyers and consumers are increasingly demanding better environmental performance across product supply chains.

“We hope MSM Milling’s innovation will lead to more industries turning to biomass in a move which could increase renewable energy generation in NSW and Australia and create alternative value streams for materials once considered surplus to requirements,” he said.

MSM Milling Biomass Fuel Switch Project

Canola oil processing to be powered with bioenergy

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced funding to transform an Australian oilseed crushing, refining and packaging company to switch to bioenergy.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA is providing $2 million in funding to MSM Milling Pty Ltd to help switch its LPG gas fired boilers to a biomass fuelled boiler.

The project, totalling $5.38 million, involves installing a 4.88MW biomass-fired boiler at the facility based in Manildra in regional  NSW which will be fuelled by locally sourced renewable wood chips, such as forestry thinnings, offcuts and sawmill by products, to generate steam necessary for the canola processing operation.

The project is one of Australia’s first demonstrations of a large-scale food manufacturing company seeking to reduce energy costs and environmental impact by using biomass for thermal energy.

MSM Milling’s change to bioenergy not only replaces the use of gas in the oilseed business, but involves using sustainably sourced wood chips in a move that increases economic return to the forestry industry.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the funding helps to grow the currently underdeveloped biomass industry in Australia.

“Bioenergy currently makes up only around 0.9 per cent of Australia’s energy mix, however the use of wood chips to displace gas is becoming attractive as consumers are increasingly demanding better environmental performance across product supply chains.

“We hope MSM Milling’s innovation will lead to more industries turning to biomass in a move which could increase renewable energy generation in NSW and Australia and create alternative value streams for wood materials currently considered as waste,” he said.

“By integrating renewable energy options into MSM Milling’s production process, the company is showing its commitment to sustainability and renewable energy, and will also receive lower and more predictable energy costs. This project will go a long way to encouraging other companies to incorporate bioenergy into their energy makeup,” he said.

MSM Milling Director Bob Mac Smith said the ARENA funding, combined with a significant company investment in the project, not only cements MSM Milling’s future as a regionally-based global food industry leader, it also helps to secure the jobs of 70 employees and allows the company to pioneer the way for other Australian manufacturers to adopt renewable energy technology.

“MSM Milling has spent a number of years researching to identify the optimal thermal energy solution for the plant to further secure our future and allow us to continue to provide sought-after trusted oil and value added oilseed products to local and international markets.  The project will significantly reduce greenhouses emissions, fossil fuel energy use and depletion, while increasing renewable energy generation in NSW – all in line with our company’s commitment to operate with the lowest carbon footprint, the highest energy and water efficiency and the least overall environmental impact,” he said

“We’ve partnered with experienced technology providers Justsen, Uniquip Engineering and carbon energy expert Ndevr Environmental for this project and will document and share the process of technology adoption to encourage further uptake within the Australian manufacturing sector,” Mr Mac Smith said.

ARENA media contact:

0407 125 909 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 120KB)

Goulburn abattoir powering itself using bioenergy

A Goulburn abattoir has teamed up with a Queensland energy provider to turn its waste into energy, thanks to funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA last year provided $2.1 million in funding to ReNu Energy to design, construct, own and operate a biogas facility at Southern Meats’ existing abattoir facility.

The Goulburn abattoir processes sheep and lambs, using around 20,000 KWh of electricity every day.

The $5.75 million project consists of an anaerobic digestion process where the abattoir waste is treated in a covered lagoon to biologically break down the effluent to produce biogas.

The lagoon acts like a giant bladder that can expand to hold biogas when energy demand is low, saving it to generate power when demand hits a peak. Simultaneously, this system disposes of waste from the abattoir and reduces methane emissions.

Biogas is treated and transferred to two 800 kW dual fuel generators to produce approximately 3800 MWh of electricity per year for use during the manufacturing process to reduce peak electricity consumption.

The generators are able to supplement biogas with natural gas, allowing the plant to minimise use of electricity from the grid during peak usage and peak charge periods.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said bioenergy represents a significant opportunity for the livestock processing sector to switch to renewable generation and reducing exposure to energy prices.

“Bioenergy also has environmental benefits for being able to re-use the effluent rather than disposing of the waste,” he said.

ReNu Energy CEO Craig Ricato said: “This project is a fantastic example of waste to energy generation, and we are very pleased to have the opportunity to work with an excellent counterparty such as Southern Meats. We also thank ARENA for its contribution to the project. ARENA plays an extremely important role in assisting companies to demonstrate and commercialise renewable technologies such as anaerobic digestion.
“ReNu Energy sees great potential in the Australian bioenergy market, in both the agribusiness, food processing and municipal waste sectors. We look forward to continuing to apply the knowledge and IP that we have in the construction and operation of anaerobic digestion projects, as we grow our portfolio over the coming years,” he said.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 121KB)

Southern Meats

 

Energy recovery feasibility study at Mt Piper power station