Q&A – Wiley & AJ Bush biogas project celebrate a major milestone

This past weekend has seen a milestone take place for the biogas recovery project being undertaken by Wiley at AJ Bush & Son’s Beaudesert facility. The project realised the delivery of the first, and largest, of three boilers from South Africa to be installed by South African company John Thompson.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with David Kassulke, Manager for AJ Bush & Son’s and Wiley’s on-site Process Engineer Heath Barker to find out what’s in the pipeline for the Beaudesert project.

It was April of this year that you embarked on the boiler journey with Wiley and John Thompson have there been any highlights along the way?

DK: The first highlight was to visit the John Thompson workshop in Cape Town. I had already visited several large workshops to view the manufacture of large rendering cookers being manufactured and I was pleased with what I found at John Thompson. All their personnel I have been in contact with thus far have been excellent; they are a very professional group.

HB: Earlier in the project we produced a 3D scanned model of the entire boiler house which was to be modified and cleared out, in order to install 2 of the new John Thompson boilers. The benefit of having this model was that it allowed us to ensure that the boilers and services were optimally positioned.

Visiting the John Thompson boiler factory in Cape Town and witnessing the number of boilers in production was very impressive. We were able to see boilers at each stage of fabrication. Since this visit we have had our first boiler delivered to site. Seeing the boiler transport convoy approaching the AJ Bush facility has probably been the greatest moment of the project thus far.

Just this weekend the first of three boilers arrived on site, can you give us a quick rundown on the delivery? How did it get there? Why did it travel that way?

DK: The boiler was constructed in Cape Town and transported by road to Port Elizabeth for shipping; a 780km road journey. Prior to leaving the John Thompson workshop the entire boiler was wrapped in protective plastic. The boiler was then shipped on a roll-on roll-off vessel that was bringing motor vehicles to Australia. Upon arrival at the Port of Brisbane, the boiler was unloaded on to a special trailer owned by Heavy Haulage Australia – as seen on TV  on Mega Truckers Australia.

A single Kenworth prime mover pulled the rig, the trailer was equipped with 12 axles, each with 8 tyres to carry the combined load of the prime mover, trailer and boiler; a massive 141 tonnes. The empty weight of the boiler itself made up for over half of that at 79 tonne. A travel permit was sought and granted  and the boiler left the Port of Brisbane at 1 am last Saturday.

It arrived at our Beaudesert site having travelled via Ipswich and Coulson under Police escort. The previous day, a heavy lift crane of 450 tonne capacity was assembled at our Beaudesert site for the lift to prepare for the boiler delivery.

What was the feeling onsite pre and post-delivery?

DK: We were anticipating this 15 MW John Thompson Europac Chaingrate Stoker Coal-fired Boiler with spiral-tubes for some weeks as it is to sit where the previous 18 MW capacity water tube boiler was located. That boiler was new here back in August 1993 and it was cut-up into little pieces for removal.

We had quite a crowd gather early on the Saturday morning to view the logistics task. People like to witness that sort of thing first-hand; large logistical events. Certainly all of our boiler operators were on hand to view the new boiler. We are looking for a long and successful association with John Thompson; this is their first boiler constructed in South Africa to come to Australia.

HB: I arrived on site at AJ Bush at 4:30am Saturday morning, having travelled the last 20 minute leg of the boiler transport route, I expected to be held up behind it or arrive to find it already on site. Neither of these occurred, I had driven by a few minutes too early. David Kassulke, Eddie Verwey from John Thompson and I jumped in a vehicle and drove to intercept it. Hearing the truck coming over a hill towards us was very exciting. Once it had passed us we followed the convoy back to AJ Bush.

I was surprised to discover that the boiler trailer was able to steer its wheels to perform sharp turns through the roundabout at the entrance to the site and around the corners of the narrow side road that would lead it to the crane. Seeing a sliver of daylight under the boiler supports as the crane began to lift the 79 tonne boiler was a moment of tense triumph. As expected, this process was very gradual and methodical as was the skating of the boiler into position which took two and a half days.

Are there any fun facts that you can share with us about the boiler and its delivery?

DK: The boiler has a design pressure of 1,100 kPa, it is a three-pass conventional firetube wet-back design with spiral tubes in both tube passes. It has been designed with the latest spiral-tube technology with heat transfer up to 100% greater than normal plain tubes to reduce gas outlet temperature to only 15 °C above steam saturation temperature.

It has a thermal efficiency of 85 % with NCV (nominal calorific value) of 26,500 J/kg and provides 10 kg of steam per kg of coal. Its empty mass is 69 tonne, operating is 118 tonne and full of water is 129 tonne.

Left to Right: Eddie Verwey from John Thompson, SA, David Kassulke and Sean Boyers from AJ Bush & Sons

This is the first of two 15 MW Europac Boilers coming to site, with a 10 MW capacity John Thompson Enviropac Oil/Gas fired Boiler also on its way to be fuelled on biogas collected from the new and existing covered anaerobic pond system. Our remaining boiler is a 11 MW John Thompson water tube boiler so we are now 100 % fully fledged members of the John Thompson family.

John Thompson’s heritage in boiler construction stretches back to 1824 and of more recent times they have supplied over 600 package boilers into South East Asia.

Can you leave us with a final statement on how the biogas recovery project at AJ Bush’s Beaudesert plant is progressing?

HB: We have already installed a reverse osmosis treatment plant for the boiler feedwater. The first 15MW boiler will be operational very soon with the remaining two boilers (15MW and 10MW) and new 25ML covered anaerobic lagoon expected to be complete and operational in early 2014.

DK: Our carbon minimisation project has been funded through a Clean Technology Investment Program grant of $ 6.2 million that was announced on the 12th December 2012, and administered by AusIndustry. By capturing all the available biogas from a third covered anaerobic lagoon (CAL), which is under construction, A.J. Bush & Sons plant at Bromelton will reduce its carbon emissions by 64 per cent and its energy consumption by 46 per cent.

That has got to be good for the sustainability of world’s best manufacturing to continue within Australia and able to complete in global markets. If fuel costs are prohibitive then find better ways to consume less energy per unit of output!

With the biogas recovery project well underway it is clear that David and his team at AJ Bush & Sons are excited about the future. It’s so positive to see that shift in sustainability to a positive and embracing viewpoint from a processor. With the emergence of another boiler supplier on the Australian horizon, in John Thompson, we can only hope to see more positive collaborations like this in future projects.

At Wiley we take great pleasure in delivering high quality projects through an easy streamlined process to get our clients cooking with gas as soon as possible.

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