Working With Business To Clean Up Australia’s Future


Photo: Richgro Managing Director Geoff Richards at the company’s Jandakot site

Photo: Richgro Managing Director Geoff Richards at the company’s Jandakot site

Two innovative Australian family companies are using new clean technology to reduce their energy costs and carbon emissions and help bring real change in a low carbon global economy.

The Australian Government’s Clean Technology Program provides incentives for manufacturing businesses to reduce emissions and invest in clean energy – through the Clean Technology Investment Program and the Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program.

The Program also allows for innovative businesses in all sectors to develop new clean technologies and services – through funding grants from the Clean Technology Innovation Program.

Meat retail, wholesale and rendering businesses AJ Bush & Sons and garden product producer Richgro are using funding under the two investment components to reduce their energy and carbon costs.

A Clean Energy Future For Meat Rendering

Founded in 1909, AJ Bush & Sons launched its meat rendering subsidiary, AJ Bush & Sons (Manufactures) Pty Ltd, in 1952 and has processing plants in Beaudesert, Queensland and Riverstone, New South Wales.

With an energy bill of $3.9 million per year, and a predicted annual bill of almost $2 million under the Carbon Pricing Mechanism, AJ Bush & Sons (Manufactures) was seeking a way to reduce its energy and carbon costs.

In December 2012, the Australian Government awarded the company a $6.2 million Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program grant that will help AJ Bush & Sons (Manufactures) meet these goals.

The funds will help the company reduce the emissions intensity of its Beaudesert plant’s steam-raising production process by 64 per cent each year, and decrease annual energy costs by 46 per cent. This will result in annual energy and carbon liability savings of around $2.47 million. The project will also improve local air quality by removing odour, and capturing biogas.

“The grant will enable us to significantly reduce our environmental impact, and ensure we remain competitive and continue contributing to the local and national economies,” says AJ Bush & Sons (Manufactures) Manager David Kassulke.

The two plants process more than one million kilograms of animal by-products – such as bones, fat and feathers – each day. They produce protein meal – used as fertiliser and feed for livestock and pets – and tallow, which is used in products including soap.

“We provide an essential service to the regional livestock industry by preventing the meat by-products being disposed to landfill,” says Mr Kassulke. “We also generate export earnings and supply the local region with jobs.”

However, the company’s current production processes consume large amounts of energy, and produce substantial amounts of CO2 and methane emissions, and wastewater.

AJ Bush & Sons (Manufactures) currently burns coal to raise steam and produce the heat needed to separate the water, fat and protein of the animal waste products. In the 2011 financial year, the process of burning coal accounted for two-thirds of the Beaudesert plant’s 82,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The Beaudesert plant also produces around 500 tonnes of wastewater each day, which is treated in two large anaerobic ponds that emit methane gas.

The grant will help fund a $12.4 million project to build two new covered anaerobic ponds and covers to its two existing ponds. The high-density polyethylene covers will trap methane (biogas), which the company will use to power a new biogas boiler to raise steam. It will also upgrade one coal-fired boiler and replace two others with high-efficiency boilers.

In addition to the AusIndustry-funded project, AJ Bush & Sons (Manufactures) will use biogas from the anaerobic ponds to generate electricity, using an onsite biogas-fired power plant run by Quantum Power.

“We expect to produce around 6 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2013 – about half our annual energy requirement,” says Mr Kassulke.

Sowing The Seeds For A Fresh Approach To Waste

Richgro is an Australian-owned family business that has been helping people tend their gardens since 1916. The company’s soil conditioner, potting mix, fertiliser and other products are sold in leading hardware outlets such as Bunnings Warehouse, Home Timber & Hardware, Mitre10 and leading garden centres.

In mid-2009, Richgro drew up plans to install a major organic fertiliser plant on its site in Jandakot, Western Australia. This would enable the company to produce 18,000 tonnes of organic fertiliser each year – a product with strong sales potential.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a tremendous spike in the cost of imported fertiliser around the world,” Richgro Managing Director Geoff Richards says.

“So Australia’s agriculture and horticulture sectors need to be using more local organic fertiliser. By producing good organic fertiliser, our company can tap into more markets and develop a solid base for future growth.”

However, the creation of this new plant would increase Richgro’s annual electricity bill to almost $500,000. To avoid this, the company sought a solution that would allow it to produce its own electricity.

A grant of nearly $1.1 million from the Australian Government’s Clean Technology Investment Program, will enable Richgro to put in place an electricity generation solution based around anaerobic digestion (AD). This is a process where organic materials, such as food waste, are decomposed naturally by bacteria to produce biogas, electricity and compost.

After researching the experience of similar companies overseas, Richgro decided to create an AD plant to help power its new organic fertiliser facility. The AD plant will be partly funded by the grant.

Once functional, Richgro’s AD plant will consume around 100 tonnes of liquid food waste a day and produce a gas stream that will be 60 per cent methane and around 38 per cent carbon dioxide. The methane will be used to drive the site’s generators – much like LPG in a car – and the carbon dioxide will be pumped into the company’s hothouses to help berries grow.

The remaining gas will be used to prepare Richgro’s fertiliser products. “We’ll use every little bit of food waste for something useful,” Mr Richards says.

The AD plant will allow Richgro to generate enough electricity onsite to meet its total requirements. The company will reduce electricity consumption from external sources to almost zero, and reduce carbon emissions by 100 per cent.

Richgro anticipates the plant will be in operation from 1 July 2013, and it will only take three months until the company can completely rely on its own electricity production.

“As a company, we’re very keen protecting the environment and encouraging sustainability,” Mr Richards says.

“Our site is on the Jandakot Groundwater Mound, which provides Perth’s urban drinking water supplies. So, Richgro’s always worked to stringent environmental criteria.”

The Clean Technology Innovation Program is not specific to manufacturers and provides grants from $50,000 to $5 million, and will fund up to 50 per cent of eligible expenditure on a 1:1 basis.

For more information visit ausindustry.gov.au, telephone 13 28 46, or email hotline@ausindustry.gov,au

 

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