18th Aug, 2016 | News
Biodome Asia (Kirk Group) gained a Highly Commended Honours for the Richgro project at this year’s ADBA industry awards. Biodome Asia worked with long-standing ADBA members Landia, Edina and Uniflare to deliver the first of its kind, ‘zero waste’ plant, out in Australia.
Detail on the project prepared by Landia:
At the official opening in March of Richgro’s new AD plant in Western Australia, Managing Director Geoff Richards looked out with immense pride and satisfaction. In the company’s centenary year, the new £3.5M AD plant represents a true cornerstone – not just for the family-owned and run Richgro, but for Australia as a whole.
“Our AD plant sends out a clear message”, says Geoff, “that we can keep our country clean, green and forever the lucky country”, which for many Australians is a phrase that has a very special resonance.
“We believed in using food waste and not growing crops to be used as fuel”, added Geoff. “For me it is very important that we find as many natural solutions as possible to the problems that confront the world – and the production of food is one of the biggest. I also wanted to steer well clear of a boxed solution because I needed to know what would be going on inside our AD plant – understand it and be able to operate it in our part of the world. There was no way I was going to put us in a situation where we didn’t have spare parts and back-up. We had to have a very robust plant”.
Wanting to form a closed loop, with potential to utilise heat and CO2 produced on site, Richgro (with annual electricity costs in excess of £200,000 pa), and also wanted to use digestate to blend in with existing Richgro product to improve nutritional and breakdown characteristics, and market the new by-product as a bio-fertiliser.
It was only when he came to ADBA’s show in Birmingham that Geoff said he could meet those at the very heart of AD industry. “Unlike other exhibitions, it was extremely focused with a very good structure and I really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss my ideas with those in the know. What was pleasantly surprising when I met Hugh Vaughan from Landia is that I wasn’t really sold to. Some companies want to sell you everything in their product range, even if they know it’s not the best solution, but I was given straight, honest answers to my questions.”
Landia were already working with Biodome Asia in Malaysia (the regional headquarters of UK-based Kirk Group), where 20 of its GasMix systems had been installed, so five months later a meeting was set up with Richgro at what was not too far off a halfway point. Geoff Richards and Hamish Jolly (Director of Biogass Renewables, also based in Jandakot) met Matthew Dickinson from Biodome Asia, plus Hugh Vaughan and Steen Larsen from Landia, to examine the best possible options as they drew up a draft design for the Richgro plant.
Both Geoff and Hamish had identified founder ADBA members Landia (digester pumps and mixers), Edina (gas generators) and Kirk Group (tanks/storage), as well as Uniflare (flare stacks). With a team now in place, Biogass Renewables assisted Richgro in gaining approval for the AD plant from Western Australia’s Department of Environment Regulation, before securing £1.1 million for the project under a debt funding arrangement from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – plus a further £800,000 in grants from the Australian Government’s Clean Technology Investment Program and the Western Australia State Government. Payback (before grants) on capital is expected within four years.
As agreed, ADBA members Landia, Biodome Asia, Edina and Uniflare all worked very closely together to co-ordinate delivery and installation for Biogass Renewables. Operational now since January, Richgro has begun generating income from the gate fee for diverting waste from landfill, as well as from the digestate as a biofertiliser by-product. Around 100 tonnes of food and liquid waste (approximately 35% dry solids) is trucked in each day to the Jandakot plant from supermarkets, abattoirs, fast food chains, breweries and soft drink manufacturers. The facility also has a de-packaging system to remove contaminants in order to enhance the digestion process with a pumpable feedstock. Where possible, leftover packaging is sent for recycling. Organic matter is fed into two 2,500 cubic meter capacity AD tanks made from glass-fused steel panels by Biodome Asia, which helped reduce on-site civil works.
Slurry is then passed into the primary digester which has its own external heating and Landia GasMix system, using the co-generated surplus heat to maintain a temperature of around 36 degrees Celsius. Everything is managed from a Biogass Renewables control room, which can be operated remotely and allows full automation of the facility.
Biogas is captured from the digester, chilled down to its dew point to remove moisture, before boosting to a containerised Edina co-generator, which produces heat and power through a reciprocating high-efficiency engine. Energy is now being harnessed by Richgro’s operations to power all of the site’s equipment, with the surplus exported into the Western Australian electricity grid. Excess heat is channeled into the site’s greenhouses, where a new revenue stream of blueberry growing has developed for the business.
Over a 20-year lifespan, the plant is also expected to save 142,722 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, as well as having eliminated its hefty electricity costs.
Less than two months since commissioning, the Richgro facility’s processing of mixed commercial and industrial food waste was giving a biogas yield of 138m3/ton. The process capture efficiency was recorded at 91%, with one ton of food waste generating 415kWe and 435kWth from the single onsite CHP, which is running at 100%, producing up to 1.2MW.
Geoff Richards concluded: “In our centenary year, creating this first for Australia is something that we are extremely proud of. Together with the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) and the Australian Government we are very pleased that we took on this major project. For the long-term good of our country we feel it is right to diversify, with a robust AD plant built from the very best UK technology that offers a real, joined-up environmental solution”.