Melbourne-based utility-scale biogas developer, Valorify, is delighted to announce that it has now secured sufficient feedstock under contract to progress Stage 1 of its groundbreaking Ararat Bioenergy facility to a ‘Front End Engineering and Design’ (FEED) phase of activity. In addition to lodging a Development Application and seeking environmental consent, the final process of engineering and design, as well as procurement and offtake contracting is expected to take the balance of 2024 to complete, with financing and construction of the plant expected to follow immediately thereafter.

Over several years of engagement and dialogue with the farming community, a Stubble Supply Agreement has been carefully drafted and iterated, based on the input and feedback of many supply chain participants, also taking into account farming practices, as well as seasonal and climate variability impacts on the cereal cropping sector, and required minimum rates of retention. The consultation process has included farmers but also baling contractors, transport and haulage businesses, agronomists and local government, and has involved multiple sampling and biomethane potential testing campaigns.

Valorify CEO, Dr Scott Grierson, sees this as a critical milestone in the development cycle of the project. “A bioenergy project without committed feedstock is really only a concept from an investment perspective – the patience and continuing engagement of the local farming community has been essential, and we are excited to have now secured feedstock under contract. Our sincere thanks to all that have contributed along the way, especially given we are effectively trailblazing and couldn’t always provide all of the answers – it shows a great deal of trust and commitment. Importantly, this enables us to progress discussions with investors in a meaningful way and makes it clear that the local community really wants this to happen.”

As a ‘commercial demonstration’ facility, Stage 1 of the Ararat Bioenergy facility will establish a single feedstock, straw-based anaerobic digestion platform in Australia for the first time, thereby helping to de-risk the technology for the local market, prior to expanding production.

Ararat Rural City Council CEO, Dr Tim Harrison, observed that, “This is exciting for everyone involved and has been conducted with a spirit of fair negotiation and collaboration on the part of Valorify – this only works when there is a genuine dialogue in place. For local farmers, this provides a viable solution to avoid the negative impacts of crop stubble burnoff, something that actually costs them money and that many would rather avoid.

Notwithstanding, it effectively pays them to clear their paddocks of excess stubble to plant their next crop too, while helping to reduce the risk of uncontrolled fires in the district, which is something we in the Grampians region have recently been heavily impacted by.” For now at least, this brings to an end the process of soliciting straw supply volume from the project catchment. Dr. Grierson is nevertheless adamant that there will again be opportunities for local suppliers in subsequent stages. “For us, this is only the beginning and hopefully our Stage 1 plant will give local farmers the confidence they need to step into the breach at a later point.”