Lismore considers biochar project

LISMORE City Council is considering becoming a business partner in a new Biochar and Waste-to- Energy project developed by Ballina Council.

The project involves the construction of a slow-pyrolysis processing plant to convert organic waste into biochar and electricity.

The plant will be located at the Ballina Waste Management Centre and has secured $4.25 million in funding from the Regional Development Australia Fund - 50% of the money required for the project.

Phillip Klepzig, manager of commercial services at Lismore City Council, confirmed that both councils are currently trying to agree on a way to work together to provide the best value for money in waste management.

"We can sign a supply agreement or we can become a full business partner in this project and we are trying to decide what will work better for everyone," Mr Klepzig said.

Rod Dawson, manager of water, sewer and waste at Ballina Council, explained that slow-pyrolysis is "heating organic waste in an oxygen-starved environment, so it is 'cooked' instead of burned".

The process produces gas, which is used to generate electricity on-site. The second product of the process is biochar, a charcoal-like solid, high in carbon that is used to improve soil quality in agriculture.

This means that greenhouse gases would be offset and carbon will be sequestered on a large scale at the Ballina Waste Management Centre.

Ballina Council will require other council's green waste, as garden waste contains up to 50% water, meaning that only half the material can be considered a "dry tonne" to be converted into biochar.

The plant would be able to process up to 16, 000 dry tonnes a year, generating 1-1.3 megawatts of renewable electricity and 5000 tonnes of biochar.

Mr Dawson confirmed that similar discussions are underway with Byron and Richmond Valley councils to ensure most of the green waste in the Northern Rivers is processed by the plant, which is to be completed by the end of June 2015.

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