http://ens-news.com/ens/dec2000/2000L-12-15-01.html
Environment News Service: Australia Draws Energy, Carbon and Oil from 
Eucalypt Trees

Australia Draws Energy, Carbon and Oil from Eucalyptus Trees

PERTH, Australia, December 15, 2000 (ENS) - A unique process of 
biomass energy production will be used in a demonstration plant 
planned for Western Australia.

The facility will turn a variety of eucalyptus trees known as mallee 
trees into energy, high value activated carbon and eucalyptus oil. As 
they grow, the trees will alleviate water and salinity management 
problems and absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The Integrated Wood Processor will be built by Western Power, the 
largest electric utility in Western Australia, at a site in Narrogin, 
south of Perth.

The plant will generate electricity and produce activated carbon 
using a process developed by the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial 
Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian government's research 
branch.

Western Australia's Energy Minister Colin Barnett (Photo courtesy 
government of Western Australia)

The full scale demonstration plant, equipped to handle 20,000 tons a 
year of whole mallee trees, will be built next year. It will produce 
700 tons of activated carbon and 200 tons of eucalyptus oil annually, 
and have an electrical generation capacity of about one megawatt, 
said Western Australia's Energy Minister Colin Barnett.

"The CSIRO technology uses special fluidised bed burners which 
partially burn wood producing charcoal," explains CSIRO's Paul Fung. 
"This releases more than half the energy originally in the wood and 
provides steam that will power electricity generation. Steam 
activation technology then converts the charcoal to activated carbon."

The project involves mass planting of mallee eucalypt trees to help 
solve the wheatbelt's large and rapidly growing salinity problem by 
lowering the water table.

Extensive work has already been done by the Department of 
Conservation & Land Management and the Oil Mallee Company of 
Australia to develop mallee tree planting and harvesting to meet 
requirements of the IWP plant.

"We are pleased that this technology is to be used in this important 
renewable energy project," explains Colin Stucley of Enecon, the 
company licensed to develop applications for the technology. "This 
new IWP industry has great potential to contribute simultaneously to 
the solution of several major environmental and greenhouse issues 
while creating a valuable new industry and employment in rural 
Western Australia."

Mallee planting can be used to manage water and salinity, but large 
scale planting needs commercial outlets for the wood and leaves to be 
economically viable. Officials say the IWP plants employing the 
CSIRO/Enecon process will provide this control.

Larger plants will have annual output of 3,500 tons of activated 
carbon products from 100,000 tons of whole mallee trees, and will 
supply five megawatts of electricity to the power grid.

The original project will produce eucalyptus oil that will be 
distilled from the mallee leaves using steam produced during wood 
processing. A continuous distillation process has been developed by 
researchers at Curtin University.

Rows of oil mallee trees grown with crops planted between the rows. 
(Photo courtesy CSIRO)
"Tests have shown these carbons are very effective in the removal of 
colour, taste, odour and other contaminants from Australian drinking 
water supplies," adds Fung, who says that work on mallee based 
activated carbon shows considerable potential. "Application in water 
treatment both in Australia and in the large overseas markets is 
envisaged."

Last year, the IWP process received an award from the international 
journal "Chemical Engineer," which described the process as an 
elegant chemical engineering solution to a number of environmental 
problems in Australia and elsewhere. IWP received another energy and 
environment award in the 2000 Rabobank Agribusiness awards in 
Melbourne, Australia.

The project has support from hundreds of wheatbelt farmers and the 
Western Australia Department of Conservation & Land Management, which 
is developing special equipment to allow a harvest of the fast 
resprouting trees every few years once hedgerows are established. The 
Western Power utility is the major financial supporter of the 
project, assisted by the Australian Greenhouse Office and AusIndustry.

While the above ground portion of the tree is harvested, the large 
root systems below ground continue to grow, store carbon and 
contribute to the long term survival of the trees. In addition to 
their water management and commercial uses, these sustainably managed 
mallee hedgerows will act as sinks for the greenhouse gas carbon 
dioxide.


 Environment News Service (ENS) 2000.

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