Northern NSW beef processor Bindaree Beef will receive an unprecedented $23 million Federal Government grant towards the construction of what’s been described as a ‘world-first’ biogas project, designed to reduce the site’s carbon emissions below the Government’s 25,000 tonne direct carbon tax threshold.
Details of the project are sketchy, with no information yet provided directly from Bindaree, but a press statement was issued this afternoon by local Federal member, Tony Windsor.
Mr Windsor, who leaves parliament at the next Federal election, said the project would slash operating costs and increase jobs at Inverell’s largest employer.
He said he had “worked with Bindaree for two years” to make the project happen.
The total cost of the project, including the Federal Government’s contribution would be $46 million, Mr Windsor’s statement said.
“Clean energy will cut the utility cost involved in processing each beast by more than one third, making the business more internationally competitive and creating the opportunity to boost production,” he said.
Mr Windsor said the project was “funded by Australia’s carbon price,” making Bindaree “an example to the world of how food manufacturers can slash both carbon emissions and operating costs at the same time.”
Government funding will not come via the Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program channel, which has part-financed a series of much smaller carbon abatement projects in the beef processing industry, but directly from Government revenue from carbon tax, it appears.
“The multi-party Climate Change Committee that I was involved with decided that carbon price revenue should be used to help people and business to change their behaviour and reduce their emissions by adopting new technology,” Mr Windsor said in today’s statement.
The Bindaree project apparently involves installation of a more energy-efficient rendering plant and directing all organic waste through a digester to produce clean energy from biogas. All organic waste will be ground into micro-particles for processing in the digester.
Harnessing waste to generate clean energy would allow Bindaree Beef to replace a coal-fired boiler and cut electricity consumption by half, Mr Windsor said.
Bindaree’s owners – John ‘JR’ McDonald and the entire McDonald family – one of the few remaining all Australian owned meat processors – had spent up to $2 million researching and developing the project over the past two years, he said.
“An on-site pilot plant is already operating, proving the concept works.”
Mr Windsor claimed carbon emissions would be reduced by 95pc, the equivalent of removing 60,000 cars from our roads over ten years – meaning Bindaree would no longer be liable to pay the carbon tax price.
Bindaree was previously identified among the 10 or 12 largest Australian processing sites that would be directly liable for the Government’s carbon tax, based on yearly carbon emissions above 25,000t.
Mr Windsor said Bindaree would no longer have to burn 7000 tonnes of coal each year or dispose of its waste in landfill or open lagoons, eliminating both smoke and odour. The project’s digester would produce organic fertiliser for sale, and high quality recycled water for irrigation.
It was an alternative to simply looking for a ‘quick fix’ that would allow them to ‘just duck under’ the carbon price threshold.
While Bindaree’s total taxable carbon emissions in 2011-12 were listed at 28,345t, the biogas project is expected to reduce that by 95.58pc, to 1253t. The project is supposed to deliver annual operating cost savings of $2.44 million to the business, and projected income from fertiliser sales of $1.8 million.
Bindaree Beef at one point owned southern Queensland’s South Burnett meatworks, which received millions of dollars in support for environmental projects from the Queensland and Federal Government before closing suddenly in 2007.
Tony Windsor was one of three Independents who sided with the Labor Party after the last election, in order to give the Gillard Givernment the numbers to govern.