New bioenergy plant at Southern Meats underway

BIOGAS: An anaerobic lagoon, feeding gas which is part methane to a power generator, is now operational at Southern Meats, Goulburn. Photo supplied by ReNu Energy.
BIOGAS: An anaerobic lagoon, feeding gas which is part methane to a power generator, is now operational at Southern Meats, Goulburn. Photo supplied by ReNu Energy.

A new renewable Bioenergy plant at Southern Meats has started generating power.

The plant runs on Biogas, which is a valuable source of renewable energy produced from waste streams associated with intensive livestock industries. 

Wastewater is diverted into a huge pond at the abattoir, which is covered by PVC membrane to capture biogas, which is part methane. 

This gas is then pumped into a turbine to produce electricity that will be fed back into Southern Meats processing plant to offset grid-supplied electricity.

Such anaerobic digestion systems also manage waste, reduce odour and greenhouse gas emissions.

The independent power producer who’ll operate the facility ReNu Energy said the Goulburn Bioenergy Project includes an anaerobic digester, which is supplied with wastewater from the facility, a biogas treatment plant, two 800kW dual fuel (natural gas and biogas) Caterpillar generators and electrical interconnection to the facility.

Electricity generated is supplied to the facility at peak times of the daily billing cycle to reduce the facility’s overall electricity costs.

“The commercial operation of the Goulburn Bioenergy Project is a significant milestone for ReNu Energy and for the bioenergy sector in Australia,” ReNu managing director Chris Murray said. 

“The project will supply about 4000 MW hours of energy annually, representing over 50 per cent of the facility’s power consumption and is a significant reduction in energy costs and carbon emissions for our customer, Southern Meats.”

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) awarded a $2.1 million (€1.3 million) grant to the project.

ReNu Energy owns and operates the project under a build own operate maintain (BOOM) model, while Southern Meats purchases the electricity supplied under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

Southern Meats CEO Col MacRury said it was a win:win for the company and ReNu Energy. 

“It is operating about three weeks ahead of schedule,” Mr MacRury said. 

“It is already producing energy.

“We have started slowly and we will ramp it up as we get more gas.

“The generators need to do a certain amount of hours to be signed off as well.

“We are expecting it to cover 50-60pc of the facility’s costs when it is fully up and running. 

“It is a decent saving and also a great story around using effluent to produce renewable energy. Not too many other meat processing plants in Australia or New Zealand are doing it. There is one in SA. We are certainly one of the first.

“ReNu handled the whole thing. They project managed it. They got the grant. We are purchasing the power.”

M MacRury said an Open Day was being organised to unveil the plant at Southern Meats and this would likely be held on April 11.