Greater incentives needed to boost uptake of bioenergy technologies

04 December 2015

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Wiley Process Engineer Heath Barker loves poop, or more accurately, he loves exploring and sharing all the exciting new ways poop, and other waste streams, can be converted into usable energy.

Which is the reason he attended the recent 2015 Bioenergy Australia Conference held in Launceston, Tasmania over the last three days. Australia’s premier bioenergy conference, this event saw around 200 delegates engage in a program covering policies and programs, projects and project development case studies and emerging opportunities.

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Specifically, the conference considers the many facets of bioenergy with in excess of 80 presentations on:

  • Biomass resources and supply chain aspects
  • Conventional and advanced liquid biofuels
  • Algae and other future feedstocks
  • Pyrolysis, hydrothermal processing and bio-char
  • Gasification
  • Biogas production and utilisation
  • Energy-from-waste
  • Heat and power
  • Biorefining and biochemicals

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There was a thread across the conference that the bioenergy sector is currently struggling with decreased incentives for industry to adopt the associated technologies.

Though, it wasn’t all doom and gloom with funding bodies such as, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) looking to jump-start the industry with the $200 million it has secured for bioenergy project financing. The CEFC estimates that current bioenergy capacity for electricity has potential to increase sixfold by 2020 with the right support in place.

There is also the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a government body that provides grant money for up to 50% of pre-commercial projects.

Onto the science! What about Magnesium Hydroxide (Mg(OH)2) dosing, I hear you ask?

Well, Mg(OH)2 dosing, into the effluent feeding an anaerobic digester (typically a Covered Anaerobic Lagoon or CAL), came across as a standout opportunity for industry. It has been trailed at a number of sites, including Wiley’s recently completed biogas recovery project at AJ Bush & Sons, and the results are impressive. Including:

  • Reduced struvite generation (this stuff blocks pipes)
  • Reduced Hydrogen Sulfide (this stuff eats pipes)
  • Increased biogas production
  • Increased methane content in biogas
  • Cost effective – e.g. one presenter reported that the increased biogas generation and reduced costs in caustic soda for biogas scrubbing actually resulted in an annual saving at a piggery of just over $26,000.

Where are my ALGAL BIOFUELS?!

Yes, it’s true, there was plenty of hype around 2010 regarding the impact of algal biofuels for the industry. E.g. 2010 Prediction: USD 1.5 billion algal biofuels market by 2015 (43% annual growth from 2010.

The 2015 preliminary findings have brought some somewhat harsher realities to light which highlight that only extremely high value products are viable and we are unlikely to see any commercial applications of biofuels before 2030 with significant policy intervention.

One viable sector for algal biomass is as feed for the rapidly growing aquaculture market (80 million tonnes presently >to 180 million tonnes by 2030. Though it is still pricey and again may only be adopted for the most premium (high value) fish farms.

As an Australian participant of the International Energy Agency’s Bioenergy Task 37: Energy from Biogas group, we held our annual meeting during the conference. The outputs of the group include a Country Report on the state of biogas in Australia as well as a survey and summary < > that maps biogas projects throughout Australia.

By the way, if you have a biogas plant, please head over to the site and fill out the survey so that the results can develop into a clear snapshot of Australia’s biogas industry. It only takes a few minutes.

Wiley shares Heath’s zeal for bioenergy solutions and we are continuously searching out the latest and greatest opportunities to help food manufacturers improve and optimise their operations. Looking forward to 2016 bringing more progress in these technologies and some real incentives for Industry to keep moving toward solutions that will bring people and food together in a meaningful and sustainable way.

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