Two new waste-to-fuel plants will be built in two separate Australian states, after the Clean Energy Finance Corporation agreed to loan $30 million to one of the nation’s leading environmental services companies, ResourceCo.
ResourceCo – which started life as a concrete crushing business but has since specialised in resource recovery and waste processing – will build two plants that will transform selected non-recyclable waste streams into solid fuel, known as Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF).
The first plant will be built at Wetherill Park in Sydney, while the second is slated for development in another Australian state, yet to be announced.
Waste to fuel, or bioenergy, while perhaps not as sexy a technology as large-scale solar, has been identified by the CEFC as offering investment opportunities of between $2.2 billion and and $3.3 billion out to 2020 in Australia’s urban waste industry.
According to CEFC Bioenergy and Energy from Waste Sector lead, Henry Anning, generating heat and electricity from bioenergy and waste resources is actually cost-competitive with other new-built energy generation, but the technologies are not yet widely deployed in Australia.
“Through this investment with ResourceCo we are demonstrating the ability to use the latest energy from waste technology to deliver cleaner energy solutions to the Australian economy,” Anning said.
“Being a throw-away society is a luxury Australia must reconsider,” Anning said. “As a nation, we’re producing about 23 million tonnes of landfill each year, causing a growing problem with potential air, water and land quality impacts and generating ongoing monitoring and remediation liabilities.
“Reusing waste not only makes economic sense, it makes good environmental sense, through the reduction of landfill and landfill gases and, in the case of fuel production, the ability to replace fossil
fuels,” he said.
The fuel, or PEF, that will be produced by the two new ResourceCo plants will be used as an alternative to coal and gas in the production of cement – initially in Australia, but with plans to export it for use in cement kilns in Asia.
Anning said PEF demonstrated the incredible potential to transform waste, that would otherwise go into landfill, into a baseload energy source as part of Australia’s future clean energy mix, while also lowering emissions – in this case, an abatement of 8 million tonnes of CO2e over the expected lifetime of the equipment.
And it was a business case that was only boosted by waste levies in states such as NSW, the ACT, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria, which were aimed at finding alternative uses for waste, rather than it going into landfill.
In NSW, the ResourceCo project has secured state government support, with $5 million in grant funding from the NSW Environmental Trust under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative. The technology is also eligible for Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) due to the diversion of waste from landfill.
ResourceCo managing director Simon Brown said the support from the CEFC had been critical to the opening of the NSW plant, which would ultimately process around 150,000 tonnes of waste a year to produce PEF and recover other commodities such as metal, clean timber, and inert materials.
“Our vast knowledge of both the waste and alternative fuel industries means we are well positioned to help lead the way in reducing society’s reliance on both landfill disposal practices and fossil fuels,” Brown said.
“Our business operates across both Australia and South East Asia, which places us in a prime position to drive this new initiative forward and make a real difference in the way in which these communities view and deal with waste.”