Opportunity not to waste

WA-BASED Hillcrest Resources could be the next company to step into the field of waste-to-energy, following its commitment last week of $US50,000 for an option to secure the exclusive rights to use Pyromex PLC technology throughout Australia and New Zealand.

And its first waste-to-energy plant is likely to be built in the Goldfields, with Hillcrest Resources in the throes of a pre-feasibility study of a site at LandCorp’s Mungari Indus-trial Park, Coolgardie.

The proposal is for a $20 million plant that would convert toxic wastes into electricity using technology developed by UK company Pyromex PLC.

The process, known as pyrolysis, is an induction heating method performed in the absence of air.

Under extreme temperatures of up to 1500 degrees celsius, waste materials become combustible gases, which are then used to produce energy via a gas engine.

Less than 5 per cent of the waste remains after the pyrolysis process, with this product environmentally friendly and able to be used as an additive in cement.

Hillcrest Resources is undertaking a pre-feasibility study to verify available waste streams, waste types and sites services.

Providing the results of the pre-feasibility study are satisfactory, Hillcrest will move into a full feasibility study and negotiate a licence, most likely in February next year.

Hillcrest Resources consultant Ross Hancock said the plant, at its peak, would be capable of processing 25 tonnes of waste per day and would generate enough electricity to power itself. Extra electricity would be fed back into the industrial park power grid.

Mr Hancock said the pyrolysis waste-to-energy process was one of the few that had a proven track record, with a plant in Germany deemed so successful after just 15 months that Pyromex PLC was planning to start building five more next year.

The plant would be equipped to handle a variety of wastes but would start with hazardous wastes.

“Initially we will be looking at dealing with toxic and hazardous waste ... and the mining industry by its very nature produces hazardous waste,” Mr Hancock said.

Sewage sludge and other industrial and organic wastes eventually could be considered for processing.

And as environmental legislation in Australia catches up with the rest of the world, Mr Hancock believes tyres, which can be dumped under current laws, also would be dealt with at the plant.

Goldfields Esperance Development Commission chief executive officer Colin Purcell was delighted Hillcrest had taken on the idea of the plant and said it would solve many waste management problems for the region and the State.

“The assessments of the plant in Germany have been glowing and it would be ideal to locate another in the Mungari Industrial Park,” Mr Purcell said. “It would provide a valuable service to others choosing to locate there.”

The waste-to-energy plant is the second “green” energy project that may be destined for the Goldfields.

Enviromission has short-listed Kalgoorlie as a possible site for a $700 million, one-kilometre high solar tower that would produce enough electricity to power 20,000 homes.

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