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The challenge

Lowering greenhouse gas emissions


To transition to a net zero emissions energy future, CSIRO research is developing and demonstrating a mix of approaches, including systems that use waste to produce or store energy.

Not only can these systems reduce landfill volume and recycle waste biomass, such as forest and mill waste, the energy produced is fully 'dispatchable'. This means it can be generated on demand according to need, making it a reliable, controllable and flexible source of energy.

This is one way that the growth of 'intermittent' renewables, such as solar and wind, can be supported.

Using and reusing waste also makes us less reliant on the use of raw materials for manufacturing and energy generation.

Our response

Fuel for a waste-to-energy technology

In collaboration with industry partners, CSIRO has been developing  and demonstrating a waste-to-energy technology — bioDICE — and developing a Biomass Quality Database of different biomass fuel sources across Australia from:

  • agriculture — wheat straw, cotton trash, sugar cane trash, chicken manure, etc
  • forestry — woody wastes from different forestry operations including some irrigated by effluent
  • industrial processing —  timber residues, sawdust from timber mills, bagasse from the sugar industry, rice hull from the rice industry, paper sludge from the paper industry, etc
  • urban waste —  municipal solid waste, green waste and biosolids, and sewage from waste water treatment facilities.

The technology consists of a direct injection carbon engine (DICE), which is a specially adapted diesel engine that can use biomass as fuel. To make the fuel, biomass is converted into a water-based slurry, a fuel called micronised refined carbon, which is injected directly into the engine. The fuel burns to produce intense temperature and pressure in the engine, which provides highly efficient power to turn electrical generators.

Biomass is subjected to low-temperature carbonisation to produce micronised refined carbon (MRC) fuel, which is used to run a direct-injection carbon engine (DICE).

bioDICE waste-to-energy generation

CSIRO's research is developing processes to produce the low-mineral-matter micronised refined carbon required by bioDICE from a range of feedstocks. Our unique test facilities enable us to understand the injection and combustion behaviour of these MRC fuels under the intense conditions found in diesel engines.

In addition, CSIRO are partnering across the supply chain to gain valuable large-scale experience that will support the ongoing commercialisation of this technology.

The results

Demonstration of the efficiency of bioDICE

bioDICE has the potential to supply 20 per cent of Australia's future electricity demand. It is a very efficient low-emissions way to generate electricity and can be turned on when it is needed to support more intermittent electricity supply from the sun and wind.

In addition to energy production, there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions from unused waste streams and the process of extracting new raw materials.

Another added bonus is that power from bioDICE can be delivered in a shorter timeframe and at a smaller scale than conventional power-generation technologies, and its fuel can be made from a wide range of feedstocks, from sugar cane trash to sawdust.

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