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Energy Recovery in Australia

Australian Energy Recovery Review

Existing state policies

                NSW
                Victoria
                Western Australia

Existing facilities

                Heck Group's 'Rocky Point Power Station'
                TPI + Veolia's 'EarthPower' Anaerobic Digester
                Visy's 'Coolaroo' Paper Co-generation
                Australian Paper's 'Maryvale Mill' Co-Generation
                Visy Gibson Island Paper Recycling
                Nestle Gimpie Coffee Manufacturing

Proposed facilities

               New Energy's Port Headland Gasifier
               New Energy's Rockingham Gasifier
               Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council's Hazelmere Pyrolysis Plant
               Phoenix Energy's Kwinana Incinerator
               DaDI's 'The Next Generation' Eastern Creek Incinerator

Energy Recovery in Australia

Globally, energy recovery is a common alternative to landfill, with countries such as Sweden sending 50% of its waste materials to resource recovery and 49% to energy recovery. Only 1% of all waste materials are sent to landfill.

In Australia, approximately 25 million tonnes of refuse material was sent to landfill in 2011, which constitutes around 44% of the total waste material output from the economy.

While more of this material could be captured via improved recycling infrastructure, much of it remains too contaminated. Compared to sending these materials to landfill, energy recovery would be an improved economic and environmental outcome. 

Thus, potentially millions of tonnes of material nationwide are available for energy recovery. Recognising this opportunity, state Environmental Protection Authorities (EPAs) across Australia have recently given the green light to energy recovery.

This has given rise to a raft of energy recovery proposals, the largest of which are summarised below. Meanwhile, some state authorities are also actively seeking proposals. Those interested in non-thermal landfill alternatives should look to our AWT review.

Existing Facilities

State Facility Owner Capacity Technology Accepts
NSW EarthPower TPI + Veolia 3 MW Anaerobic digester

Source separated food organics

VIC Coolaroo Paper Mill Visy 3 MW Thermal Co-generation Paper manufacturing seconds
VIC Maryvale Mill Australian Paper 55 MW Thermal Co-generation Paper manufacturing seconds
QLD Rocky Point Power Station Heck Group 30 MW Thermal Co-generation Timber, garden organics, bagasse
QLD Gimpie Coffee Manufacturing Nestle 16 MW Thermal Co-generation Coffee manufacturing seconds
QLD Gibson Island Paper Recovery Visy Unknown Thermal Co-generation

Paper manufacturing seconds

 

Proposed Facilities

State Facility Owner Capacity Technology Accepts
WA Port Headland Gasifer New Energy Corporation

72MW

Gasifier

Unrecoverable materials

WA Rockingham Gasifer New Energy Corporation

72MW

Gasifier Unrecoverable materials
WA Hazelmere Resource Recovery

Eastern Metropolitan

Regional Council

3MW Pyrolysis plant Uncontaminated timber
WA Kwinana Incinerator Pheonix Energy 80MW Martin Grate

MSW from the city of Kwinana

NSW The Next Generation Dial-a-dump Industries 120MW Moving grate

Second form the Genesis MRF

 

Existing State Policies

Across Australia, two states have formal energy recovery policies while an third has released a strategic review outlining what constitutes best practise. All other states and territories assess projects on a case-by-case basis.

New South Wales

Australia's most populous state released its final "Energy from Waste" policy statement in March 2014, following a draft policy in January 2013.

The final release first describes a list of "eligible fuels" which "are considered by the EPA to pose a low risk of harm to human health and the environment due to their origin, composition and consistency."

These fuels, such as tyres, can be burnt in existing facilities including cement kilns.

In the case of facilities looking to recover energy from other materials, the EPA describes the characteristics of energy recovery facilities that it will licence. Key criteria include:

  • That all materials sent to an energy recovery facility must first undergo a resource recovery process.
  • That facilities must have a minimum thermal efficiency, for example 25% of the energy generated from thermal treatment must be captured as electricity.
  • That facilities must meet Group 6 emission standards within the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010.

Victoria

Victoria released its Energy from Waste policy in January 2014 following a three month consultation period.

Like the NSW Guidelines, the Victorian Guidelines state that energy recovery must not compete with material recovery or reuse. However, the Victorian Guidelines are not specific about how this should happen, while the NSW Guidelines specify that all waste must undergo a resource recovery process prior to energy recovery.

Also like the NSW guidelines, the Victorian Guidelines specify that thermal treatment should be for energy recovery, and not for destruction of materials. The minimum thermal efficiency set by the Victorian EPA is 65%.

Victorian State Policy makers have said they are open to proposal for energy recovery facilities in the State.

Western Australia

While the WA EPA has no formal policy on energy recovery, the state regulator released the results of a strategic review in April 2013 which said the introduction of energy recovery plants into the state represented a step forward.

While providing no specific technical criteria for their approval, the WA has said the plants must "meet internationally recognised standards for best practice, with community consultation essential."

The EPA's international review suggest what constitutes best practise, noting:

  • A high thermal efficiency
  • Best practise air emissions standards
  • Innovative architectural treatments
  • Alternative thermal technologies, including fluidised bed and gasification

Existing facilities

Excluding facilities that use thermal technology to destroy materials (such as medical waste incinerators), this review found six active energy recovery facilities in Australia. Most plants operating today exist as co-generation plants supporting large manufacturing facilities.

Heck Group's 'Rocky Point Power Station'

State: Queensland
Owned by: The Heck Group
Location: 124 Mill Rd, Woongoolba, QLD 4207
Facility type: Co-generation from organics
Capacity: 30MW from up to 200,000 tonnes of organics
Accepts: Timber, garden organics, bagasse

Originally designed, owned and operated by Stanwell Corporation, Rocky Point power is Australia's largest direct mass burn facility of biomass. In 2009, the facility burnt 200,000 tonnes of garden organics and refuse timber, along with bagasse. The boiler on site is capable of producing up to 30MW of energy.  

The facility is adjacent to and supplies heat to the Rocky Point Sugar Mill, a facility which has been operating for more than 100 years. In 2002, Stanwell spent $50 million replacing the facilities high emission boilers.

In May 2012 the facility was put into liquidation, although it is understood to still be operating.

TPI + Veolia's 'EarthPower' Anaerobic Digester

State: NSW
Owned by: Voelia Environmental Services and Transpacific Industries
Location: 35 Grand Ave, Camellia
Facility type: Anaerobic digester for solid organic wastes
Capacity (tpa): 50,000
Accepts: Uncontaminated organic solids from commercial customers

EarthPower is a joint venture between Veolia Environmental Services and Transpacific Industries Group. It's Australia's first anaerobic digester for solid food organics, although these facilities are common in Europe, particularly the UK.

The project was initially opened by Babcock and Brown in 2003, with the aim of creating an anaerobic digester to treat municipal solid waste (MSW). However, this feedstock proved too contaminated, so the project was a commercial failure and shut down in December 2004. Babcock and Brown invested $36 million to build the plant.

Veolia Environmental Services and Transpacific Industries then acquired the facility and spent eight years repairing and upgrading it. It reopened in late 2012 and now operates as a joint venture between the two companies.

Its customers include large retailers, such as supermarkets, who are looking for a recovery option for source separated organics. The facility produces a pelletised fertiliser from the digester sludge, which is sold in garden shops.

It has two 5,000 cubic metre digesters, which each have a 4-6 week digestion period. EarthPower has three 1MW generators on site, although they do not all run continuously. It is capable of collectively powering approximately 3,600 homes.

Visy's 'Coolaroo' Paper Co-generation

State: Victoria
Owned by: Visy
Location: Reo Crescent, Campbellfield VIC 3061
Type: Co-generation from paper manufacturing seconds
Capacity: 3MW

Opened in November 2011, Visy's thermal treatment plant at its Coolaroo Paper Mill is one of the nation's most modern co-generation facilities.

 Recovering energy from paper manufacturing seconds, the plant can produce 30MW of thermal and 3MW of electrical power from up to 100,000 tonnes of material per year.

With the energy from the facility used exclusively on site, Visy's said the facility reduces the mill's reliance on natural gas for thermal energy by about 50% and the sites reliance on grid electricity by 10%.

Visy invested $50 million to build the plant including a $2 million grant from Sustainability Victoria.

Australian Paper's 'Maryvale Mill' Co-Generation

State: Victoria
Owned by: Australian Paper
Location: Morwell-Maryvale Rd, Maryvale VIC 3840
Type: Combustion of paper manufacturing seconds
Capacity: 55MW

Australian Paper's Maryvale Mill is the nation's largest produce or recycled office paper. Built in 1937, it remains one of the largest and oldest manufacturing facilities.

At the Maryvale site, Australian Paper uses its pulp and paper manufacturing seconds to generate 54.5 MW of electricity via a steam turbine. The energy is used exclusively on site, offsetting about 70% of the electricity used by the paper mill.

Visy Gibson Island Paper Recycling

State: Queensland
Owned by: Visy
Location: 168 Paringa Road, Gibson Island, QLD 4172
Type: Combustion
Capacity: Unknown

Like its Coolaroo site, Visy undertakes co-generation at its Gibson Island paper recycling plant outside Brisbane. The facility has been operating since 2010 with an unknown capacity.  

Nestle Gimpie Coffee Manufacturing

State: Queensland
Owner: Nestle
Location: 30 Pine Street, Gympie QLD 4570
Type: Fluidised bed boiler
Capacity: 16MW

The Nestlé Gympie Factory, based in Queensland, is the largest coffee factory in Australia, producing nearly 10,000 tonnes of instant plus roast and ground coffee per year. On site Nestle have a 16MW co-generation facility via a fluidised bed boiler.

Proposed Facilities

While there is enormous interest in energy recovery facilities across Australia, few has processed to the planning or Environmental Impact Assessment stage. Considered here are the most advanced proposals, along with the publically available information about them.

In the majority of cases, proposal are either for gasifiers, moving grate or fluidised bed incinerators.

While there is enormous interest in energy recovery facilities across Australia, few has processed to the planning or Environmental Impact Assessment stage. Considered here are the most advanced proposals, along with the publically available information about them.

In the majority of cases, proposal are either for gasifiers, moving grate or fluidised bed incinerators.

New Energy's Port Headland Gasifier

State: Western Australia
Owner: New Energy Corporation
Location: Boodarie Industrial Estate, Western Australia
Type: Gasifier
Capacity: 72MW thermal, 15MW electrical

New Energy's Port Hedland gasifier is a unique regional facility built in one of Australia's most remote locations. Designed with a capacity of 70,000 to 130,000 tonnes per annum, the facility can supply energy for up to 15,000 homes in the region.

It is designed to divert calorifically rich material which would have otherwise gone to landfill, with limited recycling available locally.

New Energy's designs are based on low temperature gasification system designed by Entech, with energy recovered from sygnas produced in a low oxygen slow burn furnace. The company said this technology maximises efficiency, while minimising stack emissions and bottom ash.

With approvals rapidly progressing, New Energy hope to bring the plant online in 2015.

New Energy's Rockingham Gasifier

State: Western Australia
Owner: New Energy Corporation
Location: Rockingham Industrial Zone, Western Australia
Type: Gasifier
Capacity: 72 MW thermal, 18 MW electrical

The second of New Energy's proposed facilities, its Rockingham plant is near identical to its Port Headland facility in both technology and design. Like the Port Headland facility, the Rockingham plant aims to take a range of local feed stocks which would otherwise be destined for landfill.

With a capacity of 225,000 tonnes per year, the Rockingham facility also aims to open in 2015.

Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council's Hazelmere Pyrolysis Plant

State: Western Australia
Owner: Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council
Location: 91 Lakes Rd, Hazelmere WA 6055
Type: Pyrolysis plant timber
Capacity: 3MW from 11,000 tonnes per annum

While small, the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC) plan to build one of Australia's first pyrolysis plants for wood is innovative and unique.

With an application currently being reviewed by the WA EPA, the proposed plant will be built at the Hazelmere Resource Recovery Park, approximately 25km east of Perth's CBD.

If the plant meets its December 2014 construction deadlines, it will be one of only a handful of operating pyrolysis plants in Australia (another being Pacific Pyrolysis' demonstration facility in Melbourne).

The plant will be built via a commercial partnership with Perth based company Ansac and its sister company Anergy, UK. The project also received technical support from UWA’s Centre for Energy and a Federal Government grant offered under the Clean Technology Innovation Fund (now closed).

Phoenix Energy's Kwinana Incinerator

State: Western Australia
Owner: Phoenix Energy
Location: Kwinana Industrial District
Type:  Moving grate incinerator
Capacity: 80MW via 300,000 tpa of material

A giant energy recovery facility, Phoenix Energy's proposal for the Kwinana industrial district will reshape the recovery landscape in southern Perth. Designed to run on MSW intended for landfill, in January 2014 Phoenix Energy won a twenty year supply agreement with the City of Kwinana.

Along with EPA approval, this gives the facility everything it needs to commence construction at the end of 2014 and begin operation in late 2016.

The facility will be based on the 'Martin Grate' incinerator technology. While not recent, this German technology is extremely robust, having been used in more than 1000 incineration plants around the world.

The company is partnering with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and construction giant John Holland to build the facility.

DaDI's 'The Next Generation' Eastern Creek Incinerator

State: NSW
Owner: Dial-a-Dump Industries (DaDI)
Location: Honeycomb Drive, Eastern Creek NSW 2766
Type: Moving grate incineration
Capacity: 140MW

The nation's largest energy recovery proposal, DaDI's has said it will build a massive 140MW energy recovery facility adjacent to its Eastern Creek site known as "The Next Generation".

The new plans rapidly follow in the footsteps of the “Genesis Xero Waste” plant, opened in early 2013 at a cost of $300 million. Sydney’s largest processing facility for construction and industrial (non-putrescible) recyclables, the giant Genesis MRF has the capacity to process up to two million tonnes per year.

On the site is the former Hanson quarry, the largest remaining void in Sydney, now licenced as a non-putrescible landfill with a capacity of 12.5 million cubic metres.

If approved DaDI said the 'Next Generation' facility would have the capacity to accept up to 1.2 million tonnes per year, via an investment of $800 million. The company aims to “break soil” in February 2015.