South of Perth, in the wheatbelt town of Narrogin, an experimental Integrated Wood Processing (IWP) – designed to address greenhouse gas emissions and farmland salinity – is slowly being brought online. The demonstration plant will provide renewable energy for 1000 homes.
Mallees are good for burning and electricity production but would not be commercially viable after the costs of harvesting, transport etc. Similarly while the trees produce the world’s best quality eucalyptus oil, the scale of planting required would require penetration into the very large solvent market and returns would be marginal. Australia currently imports eucalyptus oil.
The challenge for Western Power’s IWP demonstration plant is to prove the technological processes, to integrate them, then to show the three products are economically viable.
Using locally-planted oil-mallees to generate electricity the plant will also produce activated carbon (used in air and liquid purification) and eucalyptus oil. It is anticipated electricity will be put into the grid next month. The oil system is fully commissioned and should be in production shortly.
-The plant partially burns the wood producing charcoal;
-steam activation technology converts the charcoal to activated carbon;
-eucalyptus oil is distilled from the leaves;
-spent leaves are then ‘gasified’ to produce fuel for the boiler.
AFTER THE DEMONSTRATION PLANT?
Full scale, fully economic plants will be five times larger requiring the planting of 20 million trees each. There is potential for at least ten IWP plants in WA, and more in other states and overseas.
ORGANISATIONS INVOLVED IN DEVELOPING THE PROJECT
-Enecon Pty Ltd
-Australian Greenhouse Office
-Department of Industry, Science & Resources
-Department of Conservation & Land Management (CALM)
-Oil Mallee Association
-Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation