Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy that uses renewable organic material from plants, animals and humans (known as biomass) to produce heat, electricity, biogas and liquid fuels.

Bioenergy is typically produced from waste materials so it delivers economic benefit from otherwise unusable resources, and reduces landfill and waste storage.

As landfills reach capacity, and waste disposal costs soar, energy from waste technologies are expected to play a key role in the Australian waste management system, turning non-recyclable waste streams into higher value products.

Biomass, a form of bioenergy, can be co-fired using existing coal-fired power station infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions associated with electricity generation and replace a portion of fossil fuels with a renewable energy fuel source.

To better understand bioenergy opportunities at our existing power stations, we are planning a series of bioenergy trials to help us build our knowledge base, and to support a sustainable generation future which balances carbon objectives, energy demand and affordability.

Biosolids

Biosolids are the waste solids removed from sewage wastewater. They are a significant source of energy, similar to the energy content of low-grade coal.

The biosolids are chemically treated and processed to produce dried, odourless pellets which are co-fired in small percentages with coal. The pellets are safe to handle, with independent verification undertaken by a range of laboratories and specialist hygiene consultants.

Biosolids have typically been a waste product and management has focused on disposal and volume minimalisation. Using it as a fuel source allows coal-fired generators to reduce the amount of fossil fuel required to generate electricity and reduce carbon emissions.

We are planning a trial of co-firing biosolids at the Tarong power stations in 2020.

Energy crops and bagasse

Energy crops are plants grown for energy production. The crops are processed into solid, liquid or gaseous fuels, or dried and pressed into pellets, and burned to generate power or heat.

  • Energy grasses produce a large amount of biomass per unit growing area and leave only small amounts of residue when they are burned.
  • Sugar cane is grown on 380,000 hectares in Queensland producing up to 35 million tonnes annually.
  • Sorghum can simultaneously produce food and energy products. The residual fibre (bagasse) can be used to produce electricity.

Bagasse is the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane and sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice. It is used as a biofuel to produce heat, energy and electricity.

We are investigating the optimal energy crops to progress to trial. We will explore opportunities to partner with local growers to supply bagasse products suitable for co-firing at our power stations as part of this process.

Wood pellets

Wood and straw pellets are more energy dense and easy to transport than traditional wood chips. They are waste products from local forestry, saw-milling and agricultural activities.

The use of wood pellets will be explored as part of Stanwell’s broader study into bioenergy options for co-firing at its power stations.

Opportunities and benefits

The use of bioenergy supports:

  • greater utilisation of waste streams through higher recycling and re-use of waste from agricultural, industrial, commercial and domestic activities;
  • reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as sustainably sourced biomass is carbon neutral and may improve air quality by offsetting the use of fossil fuels;
  • enhanced energy security through domestic production of biofuels and diversification of dispatchable renewable electricity;
  • regional employment, investment and economic development as the feedstock used for bioenergy often stems from rural and agricultural activities and can be associated with existing or new manufacturing processes; and
  • circular economies which maximise the value of resources, minimise unrecoverable waste, and support local industries (for example, liquid biofuel production).

Subscribe to our mailing list

Keep up to date with Stanwell’s future energy projects and subscribe to our mailing list.

More information

For more information, contact bioenergy@stanwell.com.