Biomass pellet maker SEFAAS ramps up to meet big demand

IN DEMAND: Biomass pellets, made from forest waste and woody weed harvesting, are a renewable, low-carbon solid fuel for use in thermal power stations as an alternative to coal.They are in hot demand in overseas markets. Image: SEFAAS
IN DEMAND: Biomass pellets, made from forest waste and woody weed harvesting, are a renewable, low-carbon solid fuel for use in thermal power stations as an alternative to coal.They are in hot demand in overseas markets. Image: SEFAAS

AUSTRALIAN biomass manufacturers using forestry waste to make pellets capable of replacing coal are ramping up to meet red hot global demand for sustainable energy.

Leading the way is a Queensland company, SEFAAS Pty Ltd, which is drawing on the waste from harvesting two major environmental woody weeds on beef properties - prickly acacia and mesquite.

On a per tonne basis, biomass pellets produce around 85 per cent of the energy of coal with less than 5pc of the greenhouse gas emissions.

SEFAAS has supply deals with multiple power stations in Japan, as well as with renewable power companies in Europe and Korea.

Part of the Jarratt Group of Companies transport operation, the company has now secured more than 200 million tonnes of biomass feedstock from across Queensland.

It will set up a manufacturing and export facility in Brisbane and is evaluating sites in Gladstone and Townsville.

Each facility is located near a major port terminal with arterial road and rail access, to facilitate the movement of product from the field to the destination market.

Each of the sites will have an annual production capacity of 500,000 tonnes of biomass pellets.

The plan is for the Brisbane facility to double production capacity in the next few years, allowing the company to produce two million tonnes in total per year and abate tens of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

The feedstock already secured will allow for this target to be met, and eventually SEFAAS hopes to produce 5m tonnes annually.

SEFAAS managing director Phillip Jarratt

SEFAAS managing director Phillip Jarratt

Managing director Phillip Jarratt said the purpose of geographically spreading facilities across the state gives greater security of supply and certainty of production.

Biomass pellets are a renewable, sustainable, low carbon solid fuel for use in thermal power stations as an alternative to coal, he said.

SEFAAS was rapidly establishing itself as a major supplier of renewable biomass pellets to the growing Japanese low-emission electricity and industrial sectors, Mr Jarratt said.

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Multi enviro benefits

SEFAAS has been in development as a diversification for Jarratt Transport Solutions for seven years, with cotton gin trash the original plan for producing biomass.

However, when chlorine readings from that product proved an issue, the company looked to other agriculture sources.

"The Australian Forestry Industry has been searching for a solution to the waste material created in timber production," Mr Jarratt said.

"This waste presents a huge wildfire threat to the forests and the local communities that support the industry. It also harbours feral pests such as cats and foxes that prey on the unique Australian wildlife."

Equally, the eradication of woody weeds is a major issue in Queensland's cattle business.

Prickly acacia and mesquite are both classified as Weeds of National Significance by the Australian Government and have taken over millions of hectares of native grassland.

So the environmental benefits of manufacturing the pellets are many fold.

Growing markets

Mr Jarratt said SEFAAS had received sustained support from the Australian Government and the Queensland Government and enthusiastic support from numerous local government authorities keen to secure the jobs to be generated in their towns.

Chief SEFAAS representative in Japan, Mr Shozo Horii, said the strong support from all levels of Australian government had helped SEFAAS to develop term sheets, non-disclosure agreements and memorandums of understanding with customers overseas.

"Japanese society has an international reputation for demanding environmentally friendly, economically sustainable and socially responsible products of the highest quality, with no tolerance for disruptions to supply," he said.

"The Australian industry has the reputation of reliably supplying products of the highest standard, with robust tracing and accountability systems in place, giving it competitive advantage over competitors who produce a cheaper product of an inferior quality and much less reliable."

Mr Jarratt said it was hoped that with the establishment of a large-scale domestic biomass manufacturing industry, Australian electricity producers would look to follow the lead of other countries such as Japan and Europe in reducing greenhouse emissions through blending biomass with coal or fully substituting biomass for coal.

It was also hoped SEFAAS could expand into both sourcing feedstock and setting up facilities in other states.

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