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The challenge

Realising the energy potential of waste

Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy produced from biomass materials, such as the by-products of agricultural, food and forestry industries, and domestic and industrial waste management systems. It has the potential to be highly significant in a circular economy, for material products such as fertilisers, and the provision of energy from industrial waste and by-products.

Typical biomass materials ©  CSIRO

Modern waste-to-energy plants are common in Europe, East Asia and the United States. They are clean, efficient and can significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Some are based on the gasification process which transforms biomass and waste into synthesis gas. The synthesis gas is subsequently converted to a range of other useful products, like methanol, transportation fuels and ammonia.

There are big opportunities to further develop our bioenergy capability to help decarbonise Australia's energy sector, and contribute to a circular economy while offering reliable supply of electricity and reducing the amount of waste ending up in a landfill.

There are however considerable cost, technical and social challenges to be addressed, and that is where CSIRO has a role.

Our response

Addressing technical barriers

We are working with the Australian, local and state governments to develop the tools and understanding required to reduce the risks associated with feedstock quality and variability, and what this will mean for technology selection.

Our gasification research facility is supported by an array of specialised research tools and instruments that enable us to generate realistic gasification performance data for specific biomass feedstocks. We are also partnering with industry and technology developers to bring a strong technical component to these projects and technologies.

The results

Understanding Australian feedstocks

We maintain a publicly available database of Australian biomass and waste materials, containing the chemical properties of samples from a range of sources, including agriculture, forestry, industrial processing and urban.

The Biomass Quality Database is an important tool for identifying and managing the risks associated with the diversity of biomass materials, their properties, and the implications these have for bioenergy technology choice and design. It is a significant support to the growing interest in increasing the use of bioenergy across Australia.

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