Aus­tralia has all the in­gre­di­ents to em­brace the po­ten­tial of bioen­ergy from re­new­able wood waste

Australian Forests and Timber - - In The News -

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.

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