Australia has all the ingredients to embrace the potential of bioenergy from renewable wood waste
AUSTRALIA IS ideally placed to significantly reduce emissions from coal-fired power stations by co-firing them with renewable wood waste, in a game-changing element in Australia’s “clean coal” challenge that’s already used around the world, according to the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA).
Newspaper reports that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is advocating for the potential of co-firing renewable wood waste to reduce emissions from Australia’s ageing coal power stations as part of Australia’s clean energy future highlights the oncein-a-generation opportunity.
“With a readily available supply of organic waste from forestry and agriculture operations, an ageing stock of coal power stations, and a national consensus that we need to increase our renewable baseload energy capacity in a carbon-constrained global economy, Australia is uniquely placed to include co-firing renewable wood waste in our energy mix,” said AFPA Chief Executive Officer Ross Hampton.
“There is wide recognition – including from Chief Scientist Alan Finkel – that coal will continue to be part of our energy mix for decades to come, so Australia needs to look at how the rest of the world is managing the transition to secure, renewable and affordable energy.”
For decades countries around the world including the US, UK, Canada, and in Europe have been reducing emissions by cofiring coal power stations with renewable wood waste, with the support of those countries’ renewable energy and emission reduction schemes. As Fairfax notes, the result is Australia and other countries export pelletised wood waste for use in co-firing operations that contribute towards such international schemes.
“Australia has all the ingredients to embrace the potential of bioenergy from renewable wood waste, and it’s time we stopped exporting our advantage overseas to help other countries meet their carbon abatement targets,” Mr Hampton said.
Energy from biomass such as forestry and agriculture residues is a unique renewable that can be used across all three energy sectors (transport, heat and electricity). The CO2 released by the combustion of the renewable wood waste is captured by new plants as they regrow in a sustainable cycle. Under the Kyoto Protocol, bioenergy is regarded as CO2 neutral. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change also defines bioenergy as renewable, if it is produced from biomass that is sustainably managed – as Australia’s commercial forestry operations are.
“Other industry sectors with bioenergy potential such as agriculture, landfill and waste-to-energy could play an important role in Australia’s secure energy future, while substantially reducing emissions and reusing waste by-products from industrial processes,” Mr Hampton said.
Processed plantation timber waste could provide a new source of baseload electricity in South Australia when renewable rules are overhauled.
According to newspaper reports, Queensland-based company Altus Renewables is planning to build a $125 million plant near Mt Gambier, where timber residues will be turned into bioenergy pellets that can be energy used to fire power stations.
But unless Australian power generators begin using biopower, all of the material will be shipped to Europe or Asia, where the pellets are considered to be a useful source of renewable energy.
Ian Sandeman, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Altus Renewables Limited, said It was a little premature to go into any detail regarding the Green Triangle Project, but added: “We are currently in discussions with a number of international parties who have expressed strong interest in working with Altus on this project.”
The forestry industry is hopeful that Government policy changes, as a result of the Finkel review’s recommendations, will drive demand for bioenergy in Australia.
The Australian Forest Products Association has estimated that renewable bioenergy from wood residues could supply 5.6% of SA’s electricity needs.
Mr Hampton said creating a domestic market for biopower would deliver a major boost to the “Green Triangle” forest region, which straddles the SouthEast of the state and western Victoria.
“We think that forestry industries in South Australia will be looking at a new sunrise industry for the South-East,’’ Mr Hampton said. “This would just transform the economics of the area and lead to a whole lot of new development and new jobs.’’
Bioenergy pellets can be used in coal power stations to reduce carbon emissions or in purpose-built power plants.
Mr Sandeman said his company shipped 27,000 tonnes of bioenergy pellets to Denmark in October last year because of the lack of a local market.
“The rest of the world understands that biomass can play a very important role in underpinning the baseload production of electricity,’’ he said.
We think that forestry industries in South Australia will be looking at a new sunrise industry for the South-East.
■ Altus Renewables plant at Tuan in Queensland.
■ Pellet presses at Altus Renewables.