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Construction start for New Zealand's first large-scale food waste-to-bioenergy plant

New Zealand’s first large-scale food waste-to-bioenergy facility is officially underway at Reporoa, in the central North Island. Following the blessing of the land on August 4, 2020, by Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa, construction will begin on the new anaerobic digestion (AD) facility which is owned by EcoGas LP – a joint venture between Pioneer Energy Ltd and EcoStock Supplies Ltd – on land owned by T&G Fresh, one of New Zealand’s largest fresh produce businesses.

An artist’s rendering of the EcoGas Reporoa biogas plant now under construction in Reporoa on NewZealnad’s North Island. Once operational in 2022, the first-of-its-kind facility in New Zealand will process up to 75 000 tonnes of household and commercial food waste from Auckland into biogas and biofertilizer (image courtesy EcoGas).

According to EcoGas Director, Andrew Fisher this world-class facility will help New Zealand deal with some of its 327 000 tonnes per annum of food waste, which currently goes into landfills around the country.

By using world-leading, innovative technology, our anaerobic digestion facility will not only help address New Zealand’s food waste challenge, but it will also help power up the local community, local glasshouses, enrich local farmland, and create jobs and growth for the region, said Andrew Fisher.

The facility, which will be operational in 2022, will recover 75 000 tonnes of organic waste from businesses and kerbside food scrap collections throughout the North Island back to this very central location in Reporoa and turn it into sustainable renewable clean energy.

It will create enough energy to annually power up the equivalent of around 2,500 households in the region, produce clean bio-fertilizer for approximately 2 000 hectares (ha) of local farmland, and provide carbon dioxide and heat to enhance the growth of tomatoes in T&G Fresh’s local glasshouse. The outcome is a carbon-neutral, circular economy solution. By revolutionizing our reuse and recovery of this organic resource, each year the facility is expected to remove up to 10 000 tonnes of CO2 – that’s the equivalent of planting 218,400 trees every year. It is innovative solutions and real-world science like this, which we believe New Zealand needs to increasingly pilot and adopt, that will help us as a nation meet our zero-carbon targets, said Andrew Fisher.

First commercial-scale AD plant in New Zealand

Anaerobic digestion (AD) technology is well-proven overseas, with similar plants operating in Europe and the United States (US), however, through this joint venture, it will be the first commercial-scale facility in New Zealand.

Co-funded by EcoGas and a NZ$7 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, this NZ$30 million (≈ EUR 16.84 million) state-of-the-art facility will provide a welcome infrastructure boost to the local economy and generate close to 60 new jobs through the construction process.

Andrew Keaney, Managing Director of T&G Fresh, the New Zealand domestic division of fruit and vegetable major T&G Global Ltd, says partnering with EcoGas helps T&G source renewable energy and reduce its carbon emissions.

We have firm targets to reduce our carbon emissions by 22 percent by 2025. To help meet this, we’re continually exploring innovative solutions to source renewable energy. Partnering with EcoGas, and enabling them to build this facility adjacent to our tomato glasshouse operation in Reporoa, enables us to purchase renewable electricity, heat, and CO2, which is needed to enhance the growing conditions of our tomatoes. “Kaitiakitanga” is an integral part of how T&G does business. We see ourselves as guardians of our land, people, produce, resources, and community – and we want to do everything we can to treat them with the greatest of respect and care. So, partnering with like-minded organizations like EcoGas, to be part of New Zealand’s first commercial bioenergy and biofertiliser plant, is a very exciting opportunity for us, the region, and New Zealand, said Andrew Keaney.

In December 2019, EcoGas was awarded Auckland Council’s 20-year kerbside food scrap processing contract, which is expected to supply some of the initial food waste to the Reporoa facility, using construction trucks that would otherwise be returning to the region empty.

Andrew Keaney, Managing Director of T&G Fresh (left) and Andrew Fisher, Director EcoGas. Soon green heat, power, and carbon dioxide (CO2) will drive T&G Fresh’s tomato greenhouse in Reporoa while digestate from the EcoGas biogas plant will provide biofertilizer closing the loop on Auckland food waste diverting it from landfill (photo courtesy T&G Global).

The Reporoa facility is well-positioned to access many existing transport infrastructures as they criss-cross the North Island including backloads out of main centres such as Auckland and Tauranga, who receive construction aggregate generated in the local quarries.

Second site acquired in Auckland

EcoGas has also acquired a second site to build another AD facility in Auckland as demand grows. Parul Sood, General Manager for Waste Solutions at Auckland Council, shares why this project is significant for New Zealand.

Food waste is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Almost half the weight of a kerbside rubbish bin is actually food scraps. Rather than throwing them away, we can be turning them into more food and renewing the land. This sustainable solution brings a practical approach to addressing the climate emergency we are in. Auckland has a goal of getting to zero waste by 2040, and this project will help us get there, said Parul Sood.

About EcoGas

EcoGas LP is a joint venture between Pioneer Energy Ltd and EcoStock Supplies Ltd. Pioneer Energy runs a landfill gas (LFG) generation and industrial process heating plant converting 30 000 tonnes per annum of local waste and woody biomass to energy. EcoStock Supplies currently converts 35 000 tonnes per annum of commercial food waste into stock feed.

EcoGas brings the experiences of these two businesses together to own and operate utility-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities located in regional service hubs. The business is converting organic food waste into beneficial products including renewable energy and green carbon dioxide (CO2) from biogas and organic biofertilizer suitable for direct application onto land.

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