ARENA has announced $5.2 million in funding for Perth-based start-up Renergi to design and construct a pilot-scale bioenergy plant. The plant will use biomass such as agricultural waste and mallee to produce biofuels that can replace fossil fuels.

The $12.9 million plant will comprise a 100 kilogram an hour pyrolisis unit that will combine simultaneous break-down and gasification, and a 20 litre an hour biorefinery unit. The technology, which was developed at Curtin University, has the potential to reduce the cost of bioenergy through innovations in conversion and refining.

“Renergi’s approach would allow green bio-crude to be produced by conversion units at the source of feedstocks and refined into high-quality transport biofuels at a large central refinery,” ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischnecht said.

“Existing processes require agricultural waste crops to first be ground into smaller pieces, costing considerable time and energy.

“Renergi’s solution aims to streamline this step by incorporating steel grinding balls into a rotating biomass conversation unit, allowing simultaneous breakdown and gasification.

“The plant will operate at low temperatures and close to atmospheric pressure increasing safety and reducing energy requirements and capital costs.”

ARENA is also working with the company on a strategy for increasing the scale of production and making the technology commercially competitive.

The company was established in 2012 to commercialise a number of energy technologies developed by Curtin’s Fuels and Energy Technology Institute. These include biomass gasification for distributed power and heat generation, biomass pyrolysis and refinery for the production of biochar, bio-oil and advanced biofuels, and co-firing of biomass with coal in existing coal-fired power stations.