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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

 

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