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23 June 2021
The entire June 23, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
By DEAN LAWSON
A multi-million-dollar Ararat bioenergy project is set to shift from a desktop concept into an engineering scoping phase.
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Confirmation of raw-product availability sourced from regional farmland means Grampians Gas power plant can move from assessment to stage-one development.
Pacific Heat and Power managing director Dr Scott Grierson, who will lead community question-and-answer sessions at Stawell, Tatyoon and Lake Bolac tomorrow, said the shift represented an important milestone.
“The initial investigation into the provision of product, based on offers and expressions of interest, has indicated we have enough volume to proceed with stage one of the project,” he said.
“We will be moving from the desktop assessment to the on-ground engagement with suppliers.
“It gives investors and backers confidence that this is a real opportunity and opens the door for detailed engineering studies.”
Pacific Heat and Power has joined Ararat Rural City Council to develop the concept for a Grampians Gas plant that would use district straw and stubble to create energy. The project, with an estimated investment value of $200-million, involves transforming the agricultural waste, that might otherwise be subject to paddock burning, into one or multiple renewable power sources.
The potential is to generate reliable base-load power, heat and renewable gas, as well as biochar.
Dr Grierson said the project was entering an important period and through a partnership with global industrial engineering company Worley a focus would turn to ‘more concrete conceptual designs and studies’.
“It’s about moving from a high-level idea to a discreet engineering phase of work such as plant location, how it will work and technology platforms – the first manifestations of what it’s going to look like,” he said.
Dr Grierson said an initial expression-of-interest process to determine the availability of straw and stubble had identified an early pledge of 135,000 tonnes a year, enough to push towards a 150,000-tonne first stage.
“We have an ultimate aim of accessing 300,000 tonnes, but that will come later,” he said.
“Pledges that have come forward have met initial demand and while we’re drawing a line under it for now to allow the first stage of engineering, there will be another formal request for stock and expressions of interest before the end of 2021.
“We have pledges from a 100-kilometre catchment and we’ve had interest from across the Wimmera.
“It shows how much hunger there is for the project.”
The Ararat council is strongly supporting the project and its potential for behind-the-meter opportunities, where electricity and heat generated on site could also be used to support adjoining industry.
Council leaders are also confident the project, if it reached potential projections, would provide an anchor for an industrial hub in Ararat and have a dramatic socio-economic impact on Wimmera, Western District and Mallee communities.
The project evolved from discussions involving Ararat district’s agricultural community during the past 12 months.
Dr Grierson said developments had all been positive.
“We’re really buoyed by support we have so far,” he said.
“The feedback has been very positive and there has been a lot of engagement with the community and council. We have also formed a critical reference group to ensure all is aligned to meet everyone’s best interests.
“The key message is that things are progressing. It’s going to be a long road. It’s a big project and we’re going to have to manage risks. But we’re delighted with the engagement with local community.
“We’re continuing the process of questions and answers with the regional forums to talk more directly with farmers and the community.”
Tomorrow’s question-and-answer forums will be at North Park function room at Stawell at 9am, Tatyoon Recreation Reserve at 11am and Lake Bolac Sporting Complex, 1pm.
People keen to attend the sessions can call Ararat Rural City Council’s economic development team on 5355 0264.
Project leaders are also exploring what government support might be available for the project.