Beefing up Biogas

Bindaree Beef, one of Australia’s largest meat processors has installed a new biogas facility that transforms organic waste into methane to create electricity.

Oh NO!

Aussies love eating beef. In fact, our red meat processing sector is about 1.3 per cent of our country’s total gross domestic product. Unfortunately, however, producing beef means producing emissions. Methane from livestock is 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and meat production facilities require considerable energy to operate.

For many years, Bindaree Beef (Bindaree), one of Australia’s largest and most highly-regarded meat processors, has relied on a coal-fired boiler to power their processing plant in Inverell, in northern NSW. Until recently, this boiler used 7,000 tonnes of coal every year. For Bindaree, this simply wasn't acceptable. Known known for their high standards in meat production and processing, Bindaree was determined to move away from coal and say YES to finding a more innovative energy solution.

Oh YES

In 2011, Bindaree Beef got the go-ahead to develop a new, $47 million bio gas facility at Inverell. They were fortunate enough to receive $15 million from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, as well as a grant from the Australian Government of around $20 million. Even though biogas is strongly established overseas, it’s still in its early development in Australia.

The new biogas facility transforms organic waste into methane gas and helps create electricity. It includes a biodigester that produces biogas, an electricity generation facility that uses biogas as fuel, and a new and more energy efficient rendering plant to replace the existing coal-fired plant and eliminate the use of coal.

The new equipment has halved Bindaree’s power bills and reduced their annual carbon emissions by three quarters, making them more competitive, and creating opportunity for them to boost their production. The new plant has also created a new business revenue stream through sales of organic fertiliser that is a by-product of the energy conversion process.

The old coal-fired boiler is now only used as a back-up resource.

Drum roll please…

The project has been a huge success in several areas. This includes:   

Setting a new industry standard

The Inverell facility is the first of its kind in Australia to use biogas technology. The bio-digester manages all waste streams from the plant and uses this material to generate biogas to supplement power use, and to create solid fertiliser. The results from this project will help the CEFC to further develop the overall biogas sector.

Reducing costs

The new facility has allowed Bindaree to slash its operating costs, increase its profit margins and better compete on the global market. Bindaree has reduced its energy bills by 50 per cent and eliminated 7,000 tonnes per annum of coal use. By generating a significant proportion of its power needs on-site from organic waste products, Bindaree also now has greater control over its power costs and is less vulnerable to future electricity cost increases. They can also sell excess power generated back to the grid.

Reducing emissions

In total, the project reduced Bindaree’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 76 per cent. This is due to reduced energy use, reduced methane emissions from effluent ponds, replacement of coal fired boilers with renewable biogas fired boilers, and the replacement of grid based electricity with renewable electricity. The new process even helps improve local air quality as it eliminates the smoke from burning coal. The biogas plant effectively eliminates Bindaree’s need to burn around 7,000 tonnes of coal per annum.

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