Ecogas opens flagship bioenergy facility

Scion’s pilot-level research has culminated in Ecogas launching New Zealand’s first commercial scale anaerobic digestion bioenergy plant, showcasing the power of partnership.

Energy and Resources Minister Hon. Megan Woods officially opened the Reporoa facility in October 2022, six years after the technology was first piloted.

Scion scientists were involved in de-risking the key technologies used in the facility during its early planning and development phase. The relationship with Ecogas continues today as Scion explores further research opportunities with them to enhance bioenergy production.

Fully operational, the $30 million plant can turn 75,000 tonnes of organic food waste collected from households and businesses around the North Island into renewable clean energy and biofertiliser. Heat generated from biogas will warm T&G Global’s tomato greenhouses located nearby. Carbon dioxide produced at the facility will also be pumped in to enhance plant growth.

The glasshouses require a similar amount of energy as about 2,000 homes – all now provided by biogas.

Minister Woods says the Government is committed to establishing a circular economy with a thriving bioeconomy by 2050, adding the facility provides strong evidence of what can be achieved through partnerships.

“I hope that this facility will prove to be a beacon for more collaborative multi-sectoral projects, as well as the development of a bioenergy  industry here in New Zealand and to demonstrate how it is that we can move away from fossil gas to renewable alternatives.”

Scion senior scientist Dr Suren Wijeyekoon is studying the potential for paunch grass from culled cattle to be used as an additional feedstock at the Ecogas facility. The project extends his involvement with Ecogas which started in 2016. Attending the opening felt very rewarding, he says.

“It’s a credit to the vision of Ecogas director Andrew Fisher and his team to take what was a pilot scale project to the next level. The early work gave them that confidence to continue, and their commitment and belief in the science is very special. The facility is an initiative they can be really proud of.”

Fisher says the partnership with Scion has proven valuable.

“Look at all the successful teams, like the All Blacks and Team New Zealand, who bring in experts to be part of their programme. For our team, we started working with Scion seven years ago.

“As a company embarking on projects like this, having that continuity is important.”

Scion’s general manager for Forests to Biobased Products, Florian Graichen, says it was a privilege for Scion to support such an exciting endeavour.

“The opening was a milestone for New Zealand’s rapidly accelerating transition to a circular bioeconomy.”

The Reporoa facility was built over two years, weathering the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and global supply chain issues. The two Ecogas founding partners, Pioneer Energy and EcoStock Supplies, showed that courage, vision and expert skills can put New Zealand on the path to a more sustainable future.

About 250 people attended the opening and site blessing by Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa Runanga Trust. Among them was Parul Sood, Auckland Council’s general manager for waste solutions, who says the facility is an important step towards reducing both the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill and also greenhouse gases.

“Almost half the weight of a kerbside rubbish bin is organics and we are aiming to reduce that considerably in Auckland by turning it into a renewable resource in Reporoa.”

Ecogas’ core business is well aligned with the government’s focus on decarbonisation, circular bioeconomy and waste management. The project was funded by Pioneer Energy, and the Provincial Growth Fund assisted initial works with a $7 million loan.

L to R: Energy & Resources Minister Hon. Megan Woods, Scion senior scientist Dr Suren Wijeyekoon, and Scion general manager for Forests to Biobased Products Florian Graichen. Minister Woods hopes the facility will be a beacon for further bioenergy projects.

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