Pacific Pyrolysis, an award winning NSW company that converts organic waste to energy and bichar is primed to take advantage of expanding market interest in low emissions technology, its directors say.
Slow-pyrolysis converts waste organics to renewable energy and biochar, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Biochar is a practice which changes agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security and discourage deforestation.
The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soil retain nutrients and water.
Adriana Downie is chief technology officer of the company, which claims to lead the way in biochar technology development.
Ms Downie, who is on the committee of the Australian and New Zealand Biochar Researchers Network, told The Fifth Estate: “We have been the key supplier of biochar to research programs, such as the ones run by CSIRO that has allowed for the benefits of our AgricharTM biochar product to be demonstrated and verified.
“We have a pilot plant that has enabled demonstration and verification of the technology and we have a number of contracts with large corporations to provide the strategic support we need to successfully commercialise and roll out the technology on a large scale.
“We therefore are very well positioned to begin rapid and large scale commercial deployment as the market appetite for low-emissions technology expands.”
Ms Downie said the market for bioenergy in general had been shown by CSIRO, IEA Bioenergy and other research groups to be large and potentially could make a very significant contribution to offsetting fossil-fuel energy used .
Although the market was limited by the amount of sustainable biomass available at a competitive price, there were: “huge quantities of biomass waste materials that are simply being burned off, such as forestry and crop residues, and that are going into landfill.”
There were also large environmental and resource recovery gains to be made by utilising these undoubtedly sustainable feedstocks in bioenergy production, she said.
Cost is not the main barrier
The technology is cost competitive in delivering waste to energy and biochar solutions with today’s market prices, Ms Downie said.
“The price on carbon will certainly help us make a business case for deploying the technology. The barrier to commercialisation is not the cost competitiveness, it is the perceived risk of new technology.
“This is exactly the barrier that the government’s clean energy fund is designed to address by making funding available to lower the risk profile of the first deployments.
“We are working hard to get first commercial scale demonstration projects up and have a number of promising projects under development.
“We have applications currently being assessed for two projects in current capital grant funding programs. We hope to begin construction on our first commercial project in the near future.
“Once demonstrated the technology potential is large. Local councils can use the technology for kerbside collected greenwaste, industry (such as paper mills, wood processors, food processor etc) can use the technology to manage their waste biomass”.
Growth expectations for the industry
Ms Downie said the company was very optimistic about the future growth potential of the industry.
The proposed government policy would create a boom in the cleantech sector, especially for technologies such as Pacific Pyrolysis’ biochar and bioenergy technology.
“We can take advantage of incentives provided not only for renewable energy but also for the carbon farming initiatives through sequestering biochar carbon in soil.
“We have worked hard over many years to demonstrate and develop the scientific basis of the technology so that Pacific Pyrolysis is well positioned to take advantage of the uplift in the industry for its commercialisation efforts to come”.
The company’s slow pyrolysis technology and Agrichar soil amendment trials won the top honour at the 2007 United Nations Association of Australia’s World Environment Day Awards for “Meeting the Greenhouse Challenge”.
The technology was also credited with an outstanding industry achievement award for environmental sustainability from the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change Sustainability Green Globe Awards in 2008.
Ms Downie was recently selected as one of the Next 100 Emerging Leaders by The Australian newspaper for her work in the promotion and development of biochar.
She has more than eight years of industry experience in the commercial development of new technology and has managed several large scale research programs.
She is undertaking the final stages of a PhD program at the University of New South Wales on the pyrolysis of biomass for biochar and bioenergy for which she was selected as a finalist for a Eureka science prize ”.
Ms Downie will speak on “Commercial opportunities presented by implementing slow-pyrolysis technology”, from 5.30 to 7.30pm on Thursday 11 August at Norton Rose Australia, Boardroom, Level 18, Grosvenor Place, 225 George Street, Sydney.