Straw biomass could benefit miners

While mining and agriculture have traditionally been largely at odds when it comes to land use, a renewable energy project in South Australia wants to unite the industries’ interests.

With a planned demonstration plant to exhibit how a straw- burning generator could provide miners with an inexpensive power source for the first 10-20 megawatts, the 15MW Yorke Biomass Energy (YBE) project is seeking to assist remote mining operations to access baseload electricity from the crop.

According to YBE Chairman Terry Kallis, straw biomass has major potential to contribute to mining operations across the country.

“The potential for straw-fuelled biomass power generation in Australia is conservatively estimated at 660MW, or another 40 or so projects the size of the YBE project,” Mr Kallis told National Mining Chronicle.

“As mining developments have started to encroach on agricultural pursuits, the initial reaction has been to see this as competition for land use and for mining and farming to be seen as mutually exclusive.

“However, if one thinks outside the square, there is a?real opportunity to see things as mutually beneficial by supplying agricultural waste to produce needed power for mining projects.”

The project is located in the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia, which owns its status as a major grain growing region.

Mr Kallis said the location of the project, around 2km south of Ardrossan, was carefully selected as an ideal choice for a biomass project.

“The location of the project has been driven by a number of matters, including proximity to the straw resource, proximity to the grid and customers, an excellent network of access roads for delivery of straw and proximity to cooling water if needed,” Mr Kallis said.

Expected to be operational in 2018 and to process 90,000 tonnes of straw from local farms every year, the plant is modelled on existing facilities operated by infrastructure and renewable energy development company Acciona, and has the potential to create up to 40 long-term employment opportunities.

It has not all been smooth sailing however, as the YBE project, like many others, has encountered several stops and starts, primarily driven by changes in government policy on renewable energy.

“There have been four community meetings conducted over several months, and a number of exclusive negotiation agreements for biomass supply have been executed,” Mr Kallis said.

“The project is in the design and tender stage for the biomass power plant and ancillary equipment. In January 2017, we also submitted a tender for the supply of 113 gigawatt hours of power for a South Australian Government contract.

“We are additionally planning to submit an expression of interest to Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for grant assistance for the project, and we are also assessing the opportunity to access Clean Energy Financing Corporation’s $200 million bioenergy equity fund.”

Currently in the process of discussing the potential for investment in YBE and a future pipeline of similar projects across Australia – mainly in SA, Victoria and Western Australia – Mr Kallis is confident of YBE’s potential.

“Biomass projects have the highest job intensity of any form of renewable energy, operate 24/7 as baseload and offer a great way of bringing together traditionally different pursuits, including farming, mining, and general industry,” he said.

“This YBE project really aims to demonstrate how farmers, miners and local communities can all work together for mutual advantage.” NMC

Picture: A demonstration plant to create straw-based fuel. Supplied

latest news

Green light for Gruyere pipe

Work is expected to begin next month on a $180 million pipeline to pump gas from the Eastern Goldfields to the remote Gruyere gold mine 200km east of Laverton, after pipe owner APA Group secured final approval from the State Government to go ahead.

Read more

Lionstown focus on lithium

Minnow explorer Liontown Resources has relaunched a campaign targeting high-grade lithium mineralisation at its Northern Goldfields-based Kathleen Valley project in an attempt to firm targets for the rising commodity.

Read more

Breaker keen for early start

The owner of a new greenfields gold development east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder says it could enter production early after posting high recoveries in metallurgical test work.

Read more

Focus on Three Mile Hill

Chinese-backed gold miner Focus Minerals is getting closer to a potential restart of its Coolgardie gold operations, starting the process to return power to its Three Mile Hill processing plant and closing in on the sale of the unwanted Jasper Hills project near Laverton, Western Australian.

Read more

DRA acquires Australian firm

Privately-owned South African engineering services group DRA has agreed to acquire Australia’s Minnovo Global for an undisclosed sum, with the transaction expected to be completed this quarter.

Read more

NSW coal project wins Government backing

The Wallarah 2 underground coal project has been approved by the New South Wales Government, despite ongoing community opposition on the state’s Central Coast.

Read more


industry insight

The far reach of battery tech

Not that long ago it was described as ‘flying under the radar’, but as the electric vehicle (EV)

Products & Technology

Revolutionising In-Pit Dewatering

People & Projects

Contract win spurs Pacific Industrial Company 

Occupational safety & health

Organic growth spurs safety app success 


All work, all play for Sentient

A first person shooter first helped Sentient Computing realise the potential of video game technology.

Read more